Elderly woman contracts inhalation anthrax

By Matthew Daly

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. – An elderly woman who lives on her own in the farm country of southwestern Connecticut has inhalation anthrax, according to initial test results disclosed today.

The patient, who is in her 90s, was hospitalized in serious condition, Gov. John Rowland said. He said more test results were pending and there was no indication of a criminal act.

The woman tested positive for the inhaled form of the disease in five separate tests conducted by the Department of Public Health and Griffin Hospital in Derby, Rowland said.

More tests were being conducted by experts at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Results are expected Wednesday.

“Testing by the CDC could prove negative,” Rowland said.

He said the woman lives in Oxford, a small rural community about 30 miles southwest of Hartford. She was originally treated for pneumonia and admitted to the Derby hospital last Wednesday.

“It’s difficult to explain how the person contracted anthrax,” Rowland said. “There is no evidence they contracted the disease as a result of a criminal act.”

The FBI and state police have secured the woman’s home and are conducting a criminal investigation, Rowland said. The woman lives by herself and has a limited routine.

Nationwide, four people have died and 13 have been sickened by anthrax since early October.

Joxel Garcia, the state health commissioner, said the state received positive tests from the hospital Monday and immediately began conducting its own investigation.

Rowland said there was no indication the woman is related to any government official or had any public activity that would cause her to be a target of terrorism.

“I continue to say that Connecticut has never been a (target) of attack from any terrorist,” Rowland said. “We still can’t determine it’s a terrorist attack. It could be an accident.”

Still, Derby Mayor Marc Garofalo said the city sent its emergency response team to the hospital immediately after he learned of the case this evening.

“We want to assure the public that the city and all its resources are standing by,” he said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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