Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Anthrax scares rock Madison, county

Four separate anthrax scares kept Madison emergency crews working hard late into the afternoon Friday, while the nation watched in fear as a third person tests positive for anthrax.

Though no one was actually diagnosed with the fatal disease in Madison, which has recently sparked recent worry in Americans fearful of bioterrorism, the fear was enough to evacuate buildings, close off entire an entire downtown block and call out the Madison Hazardous Incident Team.

Around 12:30 p.m. a call went out to emergency crews that an employee in the mailroom of American Family Insurance, 302 North Walbridge Ave., had discovered a green powder in a package.

While police and fire officials were working out the details of that case another scare was reported at the GEF-1, State Office Building, two blocks from the Capitol on East Washington Ave. There, two employees found a gray powder at the bottom of a mailing tube.

Anthrax scares were also reported at the Department of Military Affairs, which houses the Wisconsin National Guard, and at Certco, a grocery distribution company in Fitchburg.

Over 800 workers were evacuated from the American Family Insurance building. Four people, plus a paramedic, with direct exposure to the powder were transported to University Hospital, while the 23 people in proximity to the package when it was opened were forced to stay behind for decontamination.

A couple hours after the powder was discovered, the State Lab of Hygiene found there were no bacteria present and the workers were sent home.

At the GEF-1 building the two workers in direct exposure to the powder were detained along with a dozen others, albeit in a separate room, while the Hazardous Incident Team, fully clad in protective gear, obtained the powder and sent it to the state lab as well. After testing results for anthrax showed up negative, these employees were released as well.

At Certco an employee reported that gray powder fell onto her hands after opening a roll of quarters, but testing results for anthrax showed up negative.

A package found at the Department of Military Affairs was found to be suspicious by workers in the building and was handed over to U.S. Postal Inspectors. No one came into contact with any powdery substance in this case.

Officials said that the four separate incidences were merely precautionary. Capitol Police had specifically asked that workers in buildings surrounding the Capitol be on guard for suspicious packages. Police said it was important to be extra cautious since three confirmed cases of anthrax have scared Americans in past days.

Madison Mayor Sue Bauman and Dane County Executive Kathleen Faulk called a press conference shortly after the final scare scene had wrapped up. Both leaders asked the public to be “calm and cautious,” and said the city and county are more than prepared to handle a bioterrorism attack should one occur.

Madison residents were not alone Friday.

Reports trickled in almost continually throughout the day of anthrax scares in Washington, D.C., New York, Colorado and Nevada. An assistant of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw tested positive for anthrax after handling a letter containing a “powdery substance,” and the third floor of the New York Times office was evacuated when a reporter opened an envelope with the same type of powdery substance. Twelve people at Michigan State University in Lansing were also sent to the hospital after receiving a similar letter.

U.S. officials spent most of Friday dealing with the situation. Members of the House of Representatives met behind closed doors to discuss bioterrorism.

President Bush said the anthrax reports were causing “concern for our nation, but I want everybody in the country to know we are responding rapidly.”

Vice President Dick Cheney said that while there is no known connection between the anthrax scares and the terrorist attacks the federal government, including the FBI, are taking it into consideration.

“I think the only responsible thing for us to do is proceed on the basis that it could be linked,” Cheney said on PBS’s “NewHour” Friday.

– please refer back to Sunday night, or to the printed newspaper Monday morning for a more detailed version of the Madison anthrax scares.

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