WASHINGTON, Nov 4: The anthrax scare spread further as deadly spores were discovered at yet another mail distribution center in New Jersey, while investigators in Washington studied a suspicious letter sent to the US Treasury Department.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services announced late on Saturday that one of the environmental samples taken by the FBI in the Bellmawr Mail Distribution Center last Wednesday came back positive.
A suburb of the city Camden, New Jersey, Bellmawr is located just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, which means that after outbreaks in New York and Washington, anthrax now has penetrated a third major metropolitan area.
All employees of the facility have been offered a 10-day course of antibiotics as a precaution, the department said.
Health officials focused their attention on the Bellmawr center after a Delaware resident who works there came down with skin anthrax, a less deadly form of the disease.
The patient, whose identity has not been released, is said to be recovering.
The Bellmawr case brings to three the number of New Jersey postal facilities affected by anthrax.
So far, 18 cases of anthrax have been confirmed in the United States since the September 11 attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier, traces of the deadly bacteria were discovered at the main Princeton post office and at a mail processing center in Hamilton Township, near the state capital of Trenton.
Tests from the West Trenton post office came back negative, although an employee of that office is recovering from skin anthrax, according to the department of health.
As New Jersey postal workers anxiously swallowed antibiotics, investigators in Washington pored over a suspicious letter discovered late on Friday at the Department of Treasury.
“It was postmarked Trenton, New Jersey, and our mailroom workers determined it was suspicious,” Treasury Department spokeswoman said, adding that test results on the letter were expected on Tuesday.
Anthrax-laced letters received last month by the offices of Senate Democratic Majority Leader Thomas Daschle and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw were also postmarked Trenton.
The letter to Daschle contained a professionally refined anthrax powder that resulted in the exposure to the germ of 28 congressional staffers and police officers, according to congressional officials.
Making a sharp departure from previous statements of his administration officials, US President George W. Bush issued an ominous warning on Saturday.
“Anthrax apparently can be transferred from one letter to another, or from a letter to mail-sorting equipment,” he said in his weekly radio address.
Calling the anthrax crisis “a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country,” the president said investigators did not know yet whether the bio-terrorist attack on the United States had been conceived overseas or on US soil.
US media were reporting another possible case of anthrax infestation early on Sunday, CNN reported on its website that the mailroom at a Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Washington has tested positive for the presence of the bacteria.
Hospital officials insisted that none of the 250 patients housed there are at risk.—AFP