DEVELOPMENTS IN ANTHRAX SCARE OF 2001



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Last Updated

27 Sep 2003

Source:  Kansas City Star, September 27, 2003

Developments in Anthrax Scare of 2001

by Associated Press

Developments in the two years since the anthrax letters were mailed:

Investigation

The FBI and U.S. Postal Service are offering a $2.5 million reward for information that helps solve the case labeled "Amerithrax." Investigators have interviewed more than 5,000 people and spent more than $13 million on scientific testing.

The FBI labeled a bioweapons expert, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a "person of interest," searched his home and circulated his photo. No charges have been filed.

In June, the FBI drained and searched a pond in Frederick, Md., but found no evidence. Frederick is the home of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, one of the nation's main anthrax research centers. Hatfill once worked at the institute.

Victims

Five people died, all from inhalation anthrax, between Oct. 5 and Nov. 21, 2001. Seventeen others were sickened by inhalation or cutaneous anthrax. At least three of those are postal workers who continue to recover and have not returned to work.

Buildings

The Hamilton, N.J., post office and Brentwood postal facility in Washington, which were contaminated by anthrax, remain closed. The Postal Service plans to fumigate the Hamilton post office with chlorine dioxide in November. The Brentwood building has been fumigated and is undergoing renovation. Employees could begin returning by year's end.

The fumigation process was first used to kill residual anthrax spores at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

American Media Inc., publisher of weekly tabloids, in April sold its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters, which was quarantined after Robert Stevens (case 5), a photo editor, died from anthrax inhalation. The building's new owner, Broken Sound LLC, is awaiting government approval of its cleanup plan.

Lawsuits

Hatfill sued the government Aug. 26, saying the investigation has destroyed his life.

Stevens' widow sued the federal government last week, saying lax security at the Army institute on infectious diseases enabled the attacks.

Postal worker Leroy Richmond (case 14), who survived inhalation anthrax, sued postal officials over their response to contamination at the Brentwood building.

Sheller, Ludwig & Badey of Philadelphia plans a class-action lawsuit against Bayer Corp., maker of the antibiotic Cipro. Some postal, Senate and American Media employees who took Cipro as a precaution developed pain in muscles and joints, said attorney Caroline Reeves. Bayer spokeswoman Meredith Fischer said Cipro's labeling warns of side effects.

Mail security

The Postal Service hired Northrup Grumman Corp. to produce an anthrax detection system that will be installed over the next two years in 280 mail processing and distribution centers around the nation.

Lockheed Martin also is testing a machine that screens mail for biohazards.

The House of Representatives expanded a pilot program in which a private company scans incoming mail onto CD-ROMs, an alternative to receiving letters and envelopes at the Capitol complex.

Irradiation of congressional and federal mail continues until Congress and the White House decide it is no longer necessary.