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Giuliani Gives Press Conference on Woman Infected With Anthrax

Aired October 12, 2001 - 12:25   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, an NBC News employee has contracted anthrax -- been exposed to anthrax; is being treated, expected to recover.

Here's Andy Lack.

ANDREW LACK, PRESIDENT, NBC: Good morning, I'm Andy Lack; I'm with NBC. I'm here with mayor and with Bob Wright and Tom Brokaw and some of the mayor's key colleagues.

This morning, as many of you know now, we received a positive test for cutaneous anthrax for one of our colleagues who works on nightly news. We're not going to give you her name because we want to protect the confidentiality of the individual.

She is in good health, in good care and is under all of -- getting all of the treatment that you would expect under the circumstances. We have turned this matter, of course, over to the mayor's office, to the Department of Health. And the mayor is going to brief you on the details of what is transpiring as we speak.


First of all, let me begin by saying that what I'm going to describe now is being done out of an excess of caution. We have been in close communication with the CDC and the Department of Health, Barry Mawn of the FBI is here with us. So this matter is being handled by all of the agencies that need to handle it. And the things that are being done are being done out of an excess of caution.

The -- it is likely that this issue all began way back on September 25. So one piece of good news is that if anyone else was going to be infected, it would have happened by now, if this were some kind of a case that was going to have large implications, or at least we're hopeful of that.

Having said that, the CDC feels that the best thing to do is to test -- environmentally test the areas where there may have -- and I emphasize "may have" been exposure. So that would be one floor of this building and one or two other areas. They are going to be closed down for a while, not because there's any real thought that it's dangerous, but because they want to test it and make sure there are no remaining anthrax spores of any kind in the area. And that will probably take a couple of days. The CDC is dispatching a team. They'll get the assistance of police and the FBI, and they will do the testing as fast as they can to make sure there is no remaining substances anywhere on the third floor and the two other portions where the original letter may have been taken.

The second thing that will be done, again, out of an excess of caution, is all of the employees that may have had any kind of exposure will be, and are in the process of being tested. That will be administered by the New York City Department of Health with assistance of the Center for Disease Control.

And then the third thing is those same people who are going to be tested will be administered Cipro as a prophylaxis; in other words, to prevent the outside possibility that in some way they may have been infected. That also happens to be the way you'd be treated if, in fact, you were infected.

So it's both a preventative and it's the treatment that you would receive. And the woman who was -- or apparently is infected by it, according to the tests we got back from the CDC -- she has been treated with Cipro from way back, I guess, on October 1. Her doctor began giving her treatment with Cipro, and appears to be recovering completely. We are very hopeful she will recover completely.

So people should not overreact to this. They should realize that, given all of the events that have occurred, particularly September 11 and the things after that, when we have situations likes this everybody wants to go the extra length, particularly all of the health agencies, to make sure that there are no problems. And much of this is being done to allay people's fears.

I know people will be concerned about this, but this is in very good hands. NBC has been on top of this from the very beginning, worked very, very closely with us. The same thing is true of the federal government and the FBI and the CDC and the police department. We're all working together, and we'll try to get this resolved as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Mayor, you said this goes back to September 25. Can you tell us what happened? Did a package arrive at that point?

GIULIANI: The investigatory details I really want to leave for the police and the FBI to tell you about, because obviously they want to figure out where this all came from, and they'll give out the information that they think would be helpful with regard to the investigation.

The most important thing to know about that is that the letter that arrived here had a powder. The powder was tested, and the powder was found to be negative. The powder was tested at least once, maybe twice and found to be negative. Then later on there was a skin test, a biopsy, and that was done, that came back positive early this morning. CDC notified us early this morning.

So the test of the powder was negative to anthrax. The skin test was positive to anthrax, but if it is the powder, the powder goes back to September 25, and you don't have any additional numbers of people reporting symptoms. The chances this is contained, according to the CDC, we finished a long conference call, chances it is contained are very good.

QUESTION: Is it connected in any way the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center?

GIULIANI: I am informed by the FBI -- and I'll have Barry speak for himself, more authoritative -- Barry, if you would like to answer.

BARRY MAWN, FBI: We see no connection whatsoever to 9/11. The way we handle this open it as a separate criminal matter and proceed from there.

QUESTION: What about connections to other anthrax cases in Florida?

MAWN: The vast majority of those, as you know, are hoaxes. We are getting hundreds of them around the country. We're responding to all of them. As I say, the vast majority of them are coming back negative. Obviously. the one positive was done in Florida. Upon getting this result this morning, we are in coordination with our Miami office see if there's any similarities. Preliminarily, I do not see that. All we have, as you're well aware, is that the powder -- there was a substance found in the mailroom. It is not associated with letter at this particular time. Today it was a letter that was received here by NBC.

QUESTION: Mayor, you said that he warning was brought earlier to you and other officials. NBC perhaps want to say it was the letter or the symptoms, the victim. What was it led NBC to go to the officials?

GIULIANI: Well, I can speak to that. Bob Wright, the individual, reported a letter containing some powder, which was handled by security, and subsequently forwarded on to federal officers, and that is what led to analysis the mayor referred to, which subsequently came up negative. The developments, other developments, personal developments that require the biopsy, which led to the diagnosis happened later on.

Sure, we'll make some recommendations about that.

There's one other thing that I should emphasize that I didn't. Anthrax infection is not contagious in any way. In other words, if one person has it, another person is not going to get it from that person. You have to actually be exposed to it yourself, either inhale it or rub it on your skin or, so people may have been in contact let's say with this woman who where the diagnosis is now anthrax, would not be at any risk.

Second thing, about things people can do. Sure, they should be more careful about envelopes. If they receive an envelope that they believe is suspicious, meaning they think it contains a powdery substance, the best thing to do is to immediately contact the police or the FBI, leave the envelope where it is, leave the room, and don't move the envelope around, just leave it there. Call up, the proper people will come, they will take the envelope, they'll test it, and as Barry points out, in the vast majority of cases, it's going to be turn out to be a hoax.

We've had, you know, number of situations like that, but the thing to do is call 911. But let's say you have an envelope, you think there's powder inside, or you happen to open it and you see powder, leave it where it is, get up, leave that room, go to another room and call 911, explain what it is, and then the police and hazmat people and everyone else will take over, they'll test it and, you know, the vast majority of times it's going to turn out to be talcum powder or something like that, but given the fact that you never know, that's probably the best way to do it.

This is the first time that there's been diagnosis of anthrax. The indications up until this point were that it was negative in the category of those situations you would describe as a hoax.

QUESTION: Security people and federal authorities who handled letter this letter, have they been tested...

GIULIANI: I don't know what was done on the federal level, as to who was tested and who wasn't tested. That's being done today.

Again, all of that -- those investigatory details, I would like the FBI and the police to confer and figure out what they would like to put out that's helpful to investigation and what information they want to withhold, so they can properly investigate it. That's really up to them.

Well, I didn't say it was a hoax, it came back negative, so that's what you do; you test it, and it comes back negative.

She -- I don't have the answer to that.

The power has been tested. The powder was tested negative. She continued to have symptoms. Her doctors did a biopsy, and the biopsy was sent to two different places for testing, and the CDC determined from the biopsy she has cutaneous anthrax, but the powder that was tested negative.

QUESTION: So we have no idea that the letter was related to her.

GIULIANI: The doctors at the CDC believe that that's the way in which it happened, but again, they can't be absolutely certain of that, and that's why it's being investigated.

QUESTION: Was there anything else that was unusual or suspicious...

GIULIANI: I don't know the answer.

QUESTION: ... anthrax presumably comes in different forms. It may not be powder. Perhaps it was something else about the letter. Is there anything that can be told... GIULIANI: I don't know what details they want to give away about that. Yes, they do have the letter, and that's all being investigated.

QUESTION: Why it is coming after the warning that was issued yesterday? Let the American people know what's going on...

MAWN: Well again, there's nothing that ties it hard and firm to the 9/11 incident, so our procedure would be to treat it differently, to treat it as a criminal case. Obviously, as we're speaking now, we are looking and tying up more closely with Miami authorities to see if there's any connection whatsoever. As I mentioned, preliminary, we don't see any connectivity. But as mayor pointed out, I and the police commissioner will be getting together. We got this information, and it was positive this morning. We're looking at that time letter, as well as the Florida incident.

I think upon doing some preliminary checks, we will see what may be of investigative value that could potentially lead us to someone, that we would withhold for various short (ph) periods of time. If, in fact, we do those preliminary checks, and there is nothing of value there, then we would obviously turn around, and again, as the mayor has mentioned an overabundance of caution, put out what we can in order for everyone really to know what to look for.

QUESTION: Do you have anymore information about "The New York Times?"

GIULIANI: Yes. "The New York Times" got a letter earlier today. The letter contains powdery substance. It is being tested now. And we don't know the answer whether or not that will test positive or negative, but the police are there.

I have the chronology here, so let me just take a look. I thought it was about three days later.

QUESTION: After the 25th.

GIULIANI: Yes, I think it was the 28th. She went to the doctor on the 1st, the doctor began treating her with Cipro on the first, and that -- the Cipro treatment is for many things, including for anthrax, I guess the most effective treatment for anthrax, and she had low grade fever, she had a bad rash, and the powder was tested on the 2nd and determined to be negative. The patient continued on Cipro, and then on the 9th, I believe it was the 9th when the biopsy was done on the 10th, and the results of that biopsy that came back earlier this morning as positive to containing anthrax.

I haven't seen the power. I have no idea.

Go ahead.

MAWN: What was the question?

GIULIANI: Where did the letters come from? MAWN: We're withholding that several hours. As I just mentioned, we are making comparisons in that regard. And as soon as we can, if we eliminate that as a non-investigative step, we would obviously put that out, but we are looking at that as an investigative step, and we should have an answer for you later on this afternoon between myself and the police commissioner.

GIULIANI: I don't know that you want to identify her any further. I think from a privacy point of view at this point they would prefer not to identify her any further than what we've already said.

I didn't think we will give anymore information.

Again, I really want to tell people, I know how no matter what you say, some people will be afraid, but they really don't have to be. The reality is that this is being looked at, it looks like a contained situation. There doesn't appear to be any other symptoms that have broken out, and reality is, the police commissioner reminds me, that we get reports of this -- I wouldn't want to put numbers on it, because I'm not sure of the exact numbers. But it is not infrequent that we get reports and have to examine powdery substances to determine what they are and what they're not.

And again, the best advice I can give to people, if they receive an envelope or a package and they are in way concerned about it containing anthrax or something else, call the police, and here's the thing you really should know to do -- do not move it around. In other words, don't move it from one room to another or one office to another. Wherever it is, leave it, call up the police, call 911, they can respond, they can test it. Most likely, they will find out it contains nothing, but if they do find that it contains something, this is treatable, this is imminently treatable, as you can see this the case of this particular woman.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.

BENJAMIN KERIK, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: The one thing I would like to focus on, we are -- everybody is excited; they want all the information they can get. The investigative steps we are taking are very thorough. We get -- I don't want to say hundreds, many, many, many hoaxes and letters and threats, not only in this city, but around the country. We are doing everything physically possible to investigate every one of them. And we just -- I just want to let you know that, all right.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

KERIK: Thank you.

QUESTION: Was there visible link between the characteristics of the letter at the "Times" and at NBC so we can give people a warning?

GIULIANI: At this point, they will get back to you very shortly on that. That's something they have to check out. Right now, if people have an envelope that they think is any way suspicious, just call 911 and leave it there, we will check it out, and they'll get back to you on any more details they might think is helpful.

Thank you very much.

BROWN: Press conference at 30 Rockefeller Center, the home of NBC and NBC News. As you now know, an employee there has been exposed to a form of anthrax that enters the body through the skin. She is being treated with Cipro, which is the antibiotic that they use in this sort of things. Mayor Giuliani indicated that every employee there is also being tested, but they have no positive results back. This appears to have come -- appears to have come -- in a letter or package -- that's a little unclear to me -- about 10 days ago.




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