Officers search home, trash for anthrax clues

Friday, November 23, 2001

OXFORD, Conn. -- Federal investigators scoured the home of the nation's fifth anthrax fatality on Thursday, sifting through trash and mail in an attempt to explain how the 94-year-old woman contracted the disease.

Ottilie Lundgren, who died Wednesday, gave up driving years ago and rarely ventured from her home without the help of friends and neighbors.

Investigators trying to pinpoint Lundgren's whereabouts in the last weeks of life have interviewed Bill and Peg Crowther, close friends who often drove the widow to her doctors' appointments.

Peg Crowther, a former nurse, kept a daily log of the elderly woman's health that may help trace the onset of the disease. Crowther began taking notes this summer when Lundgren grew listless after the death of a friend.

"She appeared to be not suffering from anything you wouldn't expect to see in a 94-year-old woman," Crowther said. Lundgren's last doctor's appointment was Oct. 26 for a pneumonia shot.

Last week, Crowther noticed her friend was ailing; on Nov. 14, "she did not feel good, she ached all over," Crowther said.

Lundgren's temperature spiked to 101 degrees the next day. Crowther said she gave Lundgren some Tylenol and tea and put her to bed.

Lundgren was admitted to Griffin Hospital in Derby on Nov. 16 and died five days later. An autopsy Wednesday night confirmed anthrax as the cause of death.

It was unclear if investigators or doctors were able discuss Lundgren's case with her before she died. Her personal physician, Dr. Stephen Spear would not comment on any conversations with the patient.

In Thursday's editions of The New York Times, Dr. Kenneth Dobuler, chief of medicine at the hospital, said doctors told her she might have anthrax and asked about her activities. She reported nothing out of the ordinary in her mail and said she did not garden. Anthrax sometimes is found naturally in soil.

Nearly two dozen investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have joined crews from the FBI and state health department at Lundgren's modest home.

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