Anthrax found in Pentagon

Herald news services

WASHINGTON — An anthrax victim was released from the hospital Monday, while investigators expanded their search for anthrax spores in government buildings.

Anthrax was detected inside the Pentagon and promptly removed, officials said Monday, but cleanup in the Senate office building where an anthrax-packed letter was opened proved more complicated.

To date, the biological attack has killed four people and infected 13 others. Though concentrated along the East Coast, anthrax also has been found in Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis.

"Even though we have been confronted with a deadly disease, there is hope," said Norma Wallace, 56, a postal worker in Hamilton, N.J., who was released from the hospital Monday after more than two weeks of treatment for inhalation anthrax.

"We have the greatest scientists, the greatest physicians," Wallace said Monday. "We don’t have to stand back in fear."

Wallace said she believes she probably contracted anthrax when a co-worker shot compressed air into a jammed mail-processing machine and sent dust flying. She said it was Oct. 9 — the same day the anthrax-filled letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was postmarked in New Jersey — when the machine jammed twice.

Three patients are still hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. One of them, a mail handler at the State Department, came out of an intensive care unit and "has been improving steadily," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

A postal facility in yet another government building tested positive for exposure, this time inside the Pentagon. Anthrax spores were found in two mailboxes at a post office in the building. The entire office was decontaminated over the weekend and further tests found no anthrax, officials said.

The U.S. Postal Service is testing 267 facilities across America. All State Department mailrooms in and outside the country are being cleaned, and tests are being conducted on dozens of suspicious powders and white substances sent to U.S. diplomatic offices worldwide, including in Pakistan, Panama, Abidjan and Montevideo.

Boucher said a preliminary test from a local laboratory in Lahore, Pakistan, came back positive — and needing more tests.

Thousands of environmental samples, including scores from federal offices, are being evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, turning the anthrax scare into an almost nationwide waiting game.

Investigators continued to chase leads that could explain how New York hospital worker Kathy Nguyen, who had no apparent connection with the mail, contracted inhalation anthrax. Among them: that she might have had a second job at a restaurant. Nguyen died Wednesday and was buried Monday.

Dr. Bradley Perkins, an anthrax expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said tests on Nguyen’s clothes that initially suggested anthrax are now in doubt.

Researchers are beginning to investigate whether age or health factors, including smoking, increase vulnerability to the most dangerous form of anthrax.

Age could be a factor in lowering one’s immunity to infections. Researchers at the CDC say the 10 people who have acquired inhalation anthrax — the most serious form of the disease — during the current outbreak have a median age of 56. The youngest victim is 47.

Cigarette smoke, say researchers, can carry bacterial spores and other germs deep into the lungs, where they can germinate and cause infections.

Only one of the 10 inhalational victims is a smoker, and several are former smokers, Perkins said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mel Jennings sits in his structure during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Mel has had a brain and spinal surgery, and currently has been homeless for a year. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Annual homeless count aims to give snapshot of housing crisis

Volunteers set out into the rain Tuesday to count all the people facing homelessness in central Everett.

Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 in Everett, Wa.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Lawmakers push to boost voting in county jails across the state

A House bill envisions an approach similar to what’s been happening in the Snohomish County Jail for several years.

Vandalism at Seaview Park on Jan. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Edmonds Police Department)
Police seek suspects in repeated vandalism at Edmonds parks

Vandals have done over $10,000 of damage to parks across the city, including suspected arson and graffiti with hate speech.

One worker looks up from the cargo area as another works in what will be the passenger compartment on one of the first Boeing 787 jets as it stands near completion at the front of the assembly line, Monday, May 19, 2008, in Everett, Wash. The plane, the first new Boeing jet in 14 years, is targeted for power on in June followed by an anticipated first flight sometime late in 2008.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing workers long-exposed to carcinogen far above legal limits

The company confirmed in depositions that parts of its Everett plant still don’t meet 2010 standards.

CarlaRae Arneson, of Lynnwood, grabs a tea press full of fresh tea from Peanut the server robot while dining with her 12-year-old son Levi at Sushi Hana on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. CarlaRae said she and her son used to visit the previous restaurant at Sushi Hana’s location and were excited to try the new business’s food. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Peanut the robot waitress is on a roll at Lynnwood’s Sushi Hana

She’s less RoboCop and more Rosey as she patrols the restaurant, making sure everyone has a drink and good time.

K-9 Hobbs and Sgt. Jason Robinson pose for a photo after Hobbs’ retirement ceremony at the Edmonds Police Department in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday Jan. 26, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Police dog Hobbs retires after nearly 10 years on the Edmonds force

The German shepherd had 520 deployments, 166 arrests and 113 evidence finds with his handler, Sgt. Jason Robinson.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown and the victim of a brutal attack in 2018 answer questions from reporters on Jan. 27, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Jake Goldstein-Street / The Herald)
White supremacists sentenced for racist beating at Lynnwood bar

A federal judge handed out stiffer sentences than prosecutors had asked for in a series of sentencing hearings Friday.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Marysville State of the City address set for Feb. 1

Mayor Jon Nehring will highlight 2022 accomplishments and look to the future. Questions from the audience will follow.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A move to require voting and a bicameral chasm on vehicle pursuits

It’s Day 19 and the mood is heating up as the third week of the 2023 legislative session comes to an end.

Most Read