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N.Y. hospital that employed anthrax victim reopens

The New York hospital has a
The New York hospital has a "clean bill of health," said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Less than a week after a hospital worker died of inhalation anthrax, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani officially reopened the Manhattan hospital Tuesday where the woman worked after it received "a clean bill of health," he said.

"People should have no concerns about coming here," Giuliani said. "The hospital's been tested and ... whatever exposure took place, took place some time ago and no one else has symptoms."

\Kathy Nguyen, 61, died at Lenox Hill hospital in Manhattan on October 31. Her death was listed as a homicide after an autopsy confirmed inhalation anthrax as the cause, said Ellen Borakove of the city's medical examiner's office.

"Spores were delivered with criminal intent," she said.

Giuliani said a joint investigation by the FBI, the New York Police Department and the city's health department have not determined how Nguyen caught the deadly form of anthrax.

Nguyen worked in a basement supply room of Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat hospital. The storage area where she worked shared space for a time with the mailroom, but her co-workers said she never handled mail.

Nguyen complained of chills and headache at work Thursday, Oct. 25 but came to work Friday, though co-workers said she seemed very ill.

By Sunday night the illness had progressed, and Nguyen checked herself into the hospital around 11 p.m. At that time the case was reported to the mayor's office.

The city's health commissioner, Dr. Neal Cohen, said 28 nasal swabs were taken from hospital employees who worked near Nguyen, and all tested negative.

After her illness was confirmed, the hospital was shut down and tested for anthrax. Nguyen's co-workers were put on antibiotics as a precaution, which they were instructed to discontinue after the hospital tested negative for anthrax.

Since October 5, four people -- including Nguyen -- have died of inhalation anthrax, the most serious form of the disease. Six others have contracted that form.

Another seven people contracted the more easily treated cutaneous (skin) anthrax.

Almost all the cases have been traced to the mail delivery system: three tainted letters, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office and the offices of the New York Post and NBC News.

Last week, FBI Director Robert Mueller said investigators are "looking closely" at the Nguyen's death, since she had no apparent connection with any of the other infections or contaminated areas. Investigators said the strain of anthrax that killed her was indistinguishable from that found in the three tainted letters.

"But it is still too early to draw any conclusions," Mueller said.


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