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Sixth Person Tests Positive for Anthrax Infection

Aired October 18, 2001 - 13:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The New Jersey state officials have now confirmed that a postal worker there has contracted anthrax. As we reported this story earlier to you, we talked about a postal worker who has been exposed to anthrax; now it appears to health officials there that, in fact, this worker has contracted the bacteria.

The announcement made just a few moments ago by acting governor of the state of New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD DIFRANCESCO, ACTING GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: This morning the Center for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services concluded testing on samples taken from two employees at the post office on route 130 in Hamilton Township. As you may have heard, one employee has been confirmed as a case of cutaneous, or skin anthrax. The other is a possible case. Both have been under the care of a personal physician for a number of weeks and have been taking antibiotics to combat the infection; both are doing well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: The acting governor.

So the Hamilton Township Post Office is -- this is the area where two of the letters, the anthrax letters, were mailed from. Authorities there had talked about two employees who were not feeling well -- this is going back a couple of days -- and who had been checked for anthrax. The acting governor said now that one of those has tested positively for anthrax and the other he described as a possible case.

So we'll watch that one. But at least now we can say that there are six cases of anthrax out there. A number of exposures, but six cases; and this latest one is a postal worker in New Jersey, which will only heighten, honestly, the nervousness that people in post offices around the country are feeling -- Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Aaron, as I think you said, the letters that came both to Tom Brokaw's office and the letter to Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate Majority Leader, were postmarked in Trenton. Senator Daschle is scheduled to talk with reporters any minute now. We were told he would have a news conference at 1:30 Eastern time.

Our Jonathan Karl is there, where the news conference is being held.

Jonathan, tell us -- we know the Senate is technically in business today, although the Senate office buildings are shut down. Where is this news conference being held?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is taking place in the Capitol building here in the radio and TV gallery in the Senate.

And we're expecting not only Senator Daschle, but also Dr. Bill Frist, the junior senator from Tennessee, a Republican, and also several of the health professionals that we have seen coming out, including the deputy surgeon general.

Now, the important thing that we're going to learn here, I've been told, is that we will get the latest figures in terms of how many people have tested positive for exposure to anthrax. They had many more test results come in tonight. If you remember, the latest figures we had on that were 31 testing positive for exposure, all of them in the direct area, in the vicinity of Senator Daschle's office in the Hart Building.

We're also going to learn if there's been any more in terms of the number of people infected. As you know, that number is zero. There have been no cases of anybody here being infected with the anthrax virus; we're expecting an update on that.

Also, we may learn more about exactly how far this has spread. As you know, they have been testing, they have been going through all of the buildings in the Capitol complex on the House and the Senate side to see if there's any signs of anthrax spores anywhere, especially if the ever-critical ventilation system. And we have been told up until now that there is no signs of any anthrax spores in the ventilation system. There have been some conflicting reports on that. We're expected to at least have partial clarity on that.

But that's what we're going to hear Senator Daschle, here. The Senate is in session. But with all those office buildings closed, it's been quite a scene because those office buildings is where most of the Senate business takes place. Those are where you see most of the hearings take place.

So what you've had, is you've had all of these senators jamming into the Capitol building itself. Some of them, many of them have little one room offices they called hideaways here. They have been stuffing in as much staff as possible in those hideaways; but it has not been a typical day.

There has been a hearing, though. The Judiciary Committee did have a hearing, and actually did confirm five of the president's federal judicial nominations. So that's what's been going on here. Hardly an ordinary day on Capitol Hill, but the senators wanting to send a clear message that, yes, they are in session, they are working, even as this extraordinary circumstance is taking place on Capitol Hill -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: John, just to sort of clarify the spread of what came from this, apparently just one letter, to Senator Daschle's office: It was opened -- it obviously went through a mail room. Now, where was the mail room, exactly?

KARL: Well, there was a mail room in the Dirksen Office Building, the central mail room for Senate mail, where they did find -- one test showing preliminary positive results for anthrax presence. Then it was actually opened in Senator Daschle's mail room if the adjacent Hart Building. And it is only...

WOODRUFF: Two mail rooms?

KARL: Yes...

WOODRUFF: There were two mail rooms? All right.

KARL: And only around that area in the Hart Building, where Senator Daschle's personal office is, were there any signs of people actually being exposed to it. And as you know, as we've been reporting, the overwhelming majority of those are people that were in Daschle's office. There were also three that were in Senator Russ Feingold's office, which is just -- right next to Senator Daschle's office. And there were also police officers that were first brought to the scene who did test positive for anthrax exposure.

But remember, Judy -- and we can't emphasize it enough -- that it is testing positive for exposure, not for infection. And the latest information we had was that nobody has yet tested positive for actually having the anthrax virus, for actually being infected by it. We'll hear the latest on that when they come in.

WOODRUFF: All right. Of course, we're interested in how this spreads around. All right, Jonathan, we're going to give you a chance to sit down because we're told that Senator Daschle is getting close. So we are going to take a break.

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