United States struck by new anthrax cases

· Oct 15, 2001 Tweet

WASHINGTON/KABUL (REUTERS) — The United States was gripped by anthrax fears Monday after new cases of the bacteria were revealed, including a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-Mo., which led President Bush to point a finger of suspicion at Osama bin Laden.

On a day that marked the start of a second week of U.S. and British bombing of Afghanistan, there were signs of unease around the world that civilians were being caught in the raids.

The scare over anthrax — a potentially deadly agent in biological warfare — spread to Canada’s parliament and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s office in Berlin, as well as to France, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and Israel.

But the United States remained the only country where the bacteria have been confirmed.

Deepening concern that began this month with a rare death from anthrax in Florida, U.S. authorities announced the discovery of the bacteria in Daschle’s office and two new cases of infection — in a child of an ABC television network employee and in the dead man’s colleague.

They were the latest in a series of cases involving letters containing the bacteria mailed to locations in Florida, Nevada, New York and now Washington in envelopes postmarked from as far away as Malaysia.

The ABC case, involving a baby boy in New York, comes just days after an employee of NBC became ill with anthrax in the city.

More than 10 others have tested positive for exposure to the bacteria, while tests have been performed on more than 1,000 people who may have come in contact with anthrax.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told a news conference that because of the ABC case, investigators would visit major news organizations based in New York as a precaution.

But it was the discovery of anthrax in the office of Daschle that set off the most fears, because it brought the battle against terrorism, declared following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, to the already fortified front door of the U.S. government.

Tours of congressional sites were canceled, and mailrooms of members of Congress joined many businesses around the country in taking extra precautions in handling letters and packages.


At the White House, President Bush said “there may be a possible link” between the anthrax cases and Islamic militant bin Laden, accused of masterminding last month’s suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington.

“I wouldn’t put it past him, but we don’t have hard evidence yet,” Bush said.

When breathed in, anthrax can kill up to 90 percent of people if untreated. A skin infection is less deadly. Antibiotics work well against it; a range of drugs from penicillin to ciprofloxacin should be effective.

The anthrax alert has led to soaring sales of antibiotics and television shows describing how to guard against it.

It has also led to frayed nerves across the U.S., with airliners making emergency stops, politicians keeping their schedules secret and buildings emptying if suspicious piles of white powder appear.

While in many cases incidents turn out to be hoaxes, often involving baby powder or baking soda, there have been enough confirmed cases to keep the nation on perpetual edge.


This article was published Oct 15, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 15, 2001 at 12:00 am


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