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Last Updated

11 Dec 2002

Source: BBC News, October 19, 2001.

British woman is anthrax victim

A British woman working at CBS television is among the latest victims of the anthrax terror campaign in the US.

Claire Fletcher (case 9), 27 (at right in picture), who works in New York, was diagnosed with skin anthrax after developing a swelling on her face that she first thought was a reaction to an insect bite.

Her parents say she is "fine", and has been put on a 60-day course of powerful antibiotics.

Another Briton, former Daily Mirror reporter David Wright, 62, has tested positive for exposure to the bacteria.

He works at the same Florida newspaper office as British-born Bob Stevens (case 5), who died from anthrax earlier this month - the only person to have been killed by the bacteria in the recent scare.

There have been more alerts over suspicious packages in the UK, the latest involving the Houses of Parliament.

Part of the Palace of Westminster was sealed off on Friday morning as investigators removed a suspect package for examination.

Scotland Yard said no one had exhibited any ill effects, but decontamination procedures had been called for as a precaution.

Thousands of letters

Investigators in the US say they are not sure yet how Ms Fletcher was exposed to the spores.

It is thought they have been in mail sent to her boss, newsreader Dan Rather, for whom she opens thousands of letters every week.

Mr Rather told a news conference Ms Fletcher was infected on 1 October but had no memory of opening any suspicious packages.

Ms Fletcher's father Bernard told the BBC on Friday that she was expected to make a full recovery - and he said media attention had been a bigger problem for her than the disease.

He said: "We spoke to her yesterday... she was being hounded by the media and has been moved out of her apartment in Manhattan.

"She was expecting to come home for Christmas and I assume there wouldn't be any change to the plan.

"I don't think that physically it has a great effect on her.

"Basically I think she can go into work. Once the media attention's died down I think that's what she'll be doing."

Ms Fletcher's diagnosis brings to six the confirmed infections in America since 4 October.

The infections have hit all three major US TV networks, and prompted hoaxes and false alarms worldwide.

Lopez letter

Writing in the Mirror on Friday, Mr Wright said the spores which killed Mr Stevens had been in a letter sent to his newspaper, addressed to actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.

He said Mr Stevens had been peering at the letter, which asked the star to marry the sender, and contained white powder in which a small Star of David was buried.

Mr Wright realised he had also been exposed to the spores after a blood test came back positive for antibodies.

He said the only way he could think he was exposed to it was during a 15-minute visit to Mr Stevens' office.

He said he did not feel any symptoms at all, but was taking preventative antibiotics for 60 days.