Preliminary testing finds anthrax at KC postal facility

Thursday, November 1, 2001

Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- More than 170 people were taking antibiotics as a precaution Thursday after preliminary tests indicated traces of anthrax at a specialized Kansas City postal facility. No employees have become ill and there was no apparent risk to the public, health and postal officials said.

The positive test results, announced Wednesday night, came from two samples in two locations in one bag of employees' trash in the first-day cancellation section of the Stamp Fulfillment Services Center, housed in a complex of caves in northeast Kansas City. No substance that would be visible to the eye was found in the center, officials said.

About 200 people work in the center, including 30 to 40 in the first-day cancellation section, where stamps are canceled for collectors nationwide.

About 50 employees began taking antibiotics as a precaution late last week, and health officials gave 123 more employees a seven-day course of Doxycycline on Thursday.

About 20 test samples were taken from the site and sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more tests to confirm the presence of anthrax spores, city health director Rex Archer said. Those results were expected to be announced at a second news conference Thursday evening.

"I want to stress that there are no individuals that are infected, that we are taking more precautionary and prudent measures," Archer said.

All potentially affected employees were being contacted by the city Health Department, and 207 people were counseled about the situation Thursday morning.

The source of the suspected anthrax was thought to be a shipment of mail that arrived at the cancellation section Oct. 19 from the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C., according to Gary Stone, manager of the Stamp Fulfillment Services Center.

Stone said the shipment -- 14 trays with about 7,000 pieces of mail -- sat untouched over a weekend. On Oct. 22, after anthrax spores were found at the Brentwood facility, Stone ordered the Brentwood shipment isolated and shrink-wrapped.

Tests were then started at the Kansas City facility, including on the contents of employees' wastebaskets. No anthrax was detected in the stamp fulfillment section, nor in the Brentwood shipment itself, Archer and Stone said.

"The assumption at this point is that this is a contamination process from Brentwood ... that some (spores) settled out of the air and got on these envelopes in some way," Archer said.

The cancellation section, which will remain closed for now, has a ventilation system separate from the rest of the postal center.

Stone said the risk to the public was negligible.

"The mail that we found and sequestered, which is where the samples tested positive, did not come through the mail stream with any letters that might end up in your home," he said.

A statement from Missouri Gov. Bob Holden released Wednesday night said the state was helping in the investigation.

"The appropriate government agencies are communicating effectively, and the systems we have put in place at the state, local and federal levels to protect our citizens are working," Holden's statement said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: