SOURCE OF CONNECTICUT ANTHRAX REMAINS A MYSTERY  



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Last Updated

11 Jun 2003

Source: Washington Post, November 26, 2001.

Source of Conn. Anthrax Remains a Mystery

The mystery of how a 94-year-old widow from Oxford, Conn., was infected with anthrax deepened yesterday as environmental tests of her home and surroundings and of her acquaintances continued to come back negative for anthrax spores.

A theory that Ottilie Lundgren, who died last Wednesday, was infected naturally rather than by bioterrorism was weakened when 10 soil samples taken near her home and a neighborhood restaurant came back negative. Some investigators had speculated that Lundgren, who enjoyed gardening, might have been infected by spores from the buried remains of diseased cows.

"We have to look at it as a criminal act, even if not aimed directly at Mrs. Lundgren," Joxel Garcia, Connecticut's public health commissioner, said in an interview. Garcia was referring to a theory that Lundgren might have had contact with anthrax spores that escaped from one of the tainted letters mailed to politicians and media outlets in the last two months.

State and federal health authorities are looking for other possible anthrax cases in Connecticut through a statewide disease surveillance program, Garcia said. No other cases have surfaced, he said.

Garcia said investigators remain optimistic that they will find the source of Lundgren's anthrax because she rarely left home without a companion. This means that they should be able to trace her movements in the last weeks of her life and test everything and everyone she had contact with. They plan to investigate trick-or-treaters who visited on Halloween.

Tests from several places Lundgren visited are still being analyzed, and more samples will be collected from her house and the Wallingford and Seymour postal facilities that handled her mail.

A total of 117 samples from the Wallingford facility and 29 from Seymour have tested negative, as have 43 samples taken at her home, the health department said.

No spores were found from nasal swabs of 409 postal workers at the two facilities and about 50 friends and relatives who had visited Lundgren's home.

-- Dale Russakoff