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

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

A heavily damaged Washington State Patrol vehicle is hauled away after a crash killed a trooper on southbound I-5 early Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. An SUV driver, 32, of Lynnwood, was arrested.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.