Anthrax spores spread to Missouri, Indiana

Friday, November 2, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The fear of anthrax spread to the Midwest on Thursday with a preliminary finding of contamination at a Kansas City postal facility. Investigators established a link between the death of a woman in New York and more than a dozen cases of the disease elsewhere in the country.

The bacteria that killed Kathy T. Nguyen were "indistinguishable from all the others," including the strain in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, said Dr. Steven Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said they had not yet learned how the woman became sick.

Nearly one month into America's bioterrorism scare, the threat seemed to be receding in the nation's capital as the Supreme Court plans to reopen to employees today. But New Jersey asked the Bush administration for hurry-up help in testing more than 1,000 postal facilities. It appears the state "is the front line of the anthrax attack on our nation," wrote acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco.

From D.C. to Kansas City

In a cruel irony, officials said the suspected spores found in Kansas City, Mo., had likely been exported from the nation's capital.

"The assumption at this point is that this is a contamination process from Brentwood," the main postal facility in Washington that has been shut down for more than a week, said Rex Archer, the Kansas City health director. The idea is that spores "settled out of the air and got on these envelopes."

The preliminary test results at a specialty postal facility -- coupled with the discovery of spores at a private Indiana company -- marked the first known spread of spores off the East Coast in the nation's month-long struggle with bioterrorism.

The results were predictable.

More than 170 area postal workers in the Kansas City area joined thousands of other Americans on antibiotics and local officials moved quickly to reassure the public.

The positive test results came from swabs taken on two bags of employees' trash in the first-day cancellation section of the Stamp Fulfillment Center, said Gary Stone, the facility's manager.

At a news conference, he said that the affected portion of the facility had been closed and that it had its own ventilation system.

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

Shipped from New Jersey

Officials disclosed the presence of a small amount of anthrax on a printer in a private mail maintenance center in Indiana on Wednesday. Peter Beering, terrorism preparedness coordinator for Indianapolis and Marion County, said the printer was among several items shipped to the firm for servicing from a contaminated mail-processing center in Trenton, N.J.

Despite the discovery of contamination in four Food and Drug Administration mailrooms in suburban Maryland during the day, officials in the nation's capital said they believed the city had weathered the worst of its own struggle with bioterrorism.

More than four weeks after the first anthrax diagnosis, the CDC said it had confirmed 16 cases in all. That included 10 of the inhalation type -- including four deaths -- and six of the less dangerous skin variety.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: