Tests find no anthrax in victim's home, mail

Saturday, November 24, 2001

OXFORD, Conn. -- Deepening the mystery surrounding the nation's latest anthrax death, preliminary tests Friday found no trace of the germ in the 94-year-old victim's home, on her mail or at her post office.

"Testing was focused on the so-called mail trail," Gov. John Rowland said. "I can't speak for the federal authorities, but it's frustrating for all of us."

Authorities were awaiting more definitive results, and testing of Ottilie Lundgren's home was not complete.

Investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have meanwhile turned to the few places frequented by Lundgren, a widow who seldom left home except to go to the library, the beauty parlor, the doctor, church and a diner, where she sometimes stopped after her Saturday morning hair appointments.

Three government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators were seeking a soil sample from the diner, Fritz's Snack Bar, after residents mentioned vague recollections of an anthrax outbreak among livestock at a nearby farm more than 50 years ago.

Officials said the sample was precautionary and they had not yet found records of such an outbreak or the farm. Anthrax spores can live for decades in soil.

Diner co-owner Glenn Fritz said the building has been a restaurant since 1954; before that, it was a liquor store. He said he was unfamiliar with any long-ago outbreak of anthrax, but said, "This whole area used to be farms."

Checking other deaths

Rowland, who has called the death a case of domestic terrorism, said the state's hospitals have been asked to review the deaths of patients who had flu-like symptoms since Sept. 11 to see whether any anthrax deaths might have gone unnoticed.

"We're going to look at those who were deceased and what their diagnosis was," Yale-New Haven Hospital spokeswoman Louise Dambry said. "They asked us to look at people particularly with pneumonia symptoms."

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