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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

First Anthrax Infection in Washington

Aired October 22, 2001 - 05:20   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up on 21 minutes after the hour now and time to check out the latest developments in America's war on terrorism.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: The first soldier to die in Operation Enduring Freedom will be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery.

HARRIS: This as the bodies of two Army Rangers killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash are now at a hospital in Germany. Now, the Pentagon is not saying when they'll be sent back to the U.S.

CALLAWAY: And the U.S. Capitol will be open for legislative business today, but the House and Senate office buildings will remain closed. They will not reopen until it can be verified that no threat of anthrax exists.

And Washington, D.C. health officials will begin their day investigating up to five more possible anthrax infections in and around the Washington area. Well, that stated, here is where the number of confirmed cases stand at this hour.

Nine people have been infected with anthrax. Three of them are inhalation anthrax cases, which is the most deadly form of the disease. Thirty-two people have been exposed to anthrax, quite different than being infected. And as you may remember, one man in Florida has died from anthrax.

Up until now, inhalation anthrax only cropped up in Florida, but now that pattern has been broken. A Washington postal worker decided to go to the hospital this weekend for flu-like symptoms.

But as CNN's Kathleen Koch reports, his illness has become the catalyst for a myriad of precautions that are affecting thousands of people there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New concerns and precautions as doctors confirm the first anthrax infection in Washington. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams called a press conference to announce a postal worker tested positive for inhalation anthrax, the most serious type of infection. MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON: I want to start out by sending the prayers and condolences of everyone in our city to the gentleman who is now gravely ill from contracting anthrax.

KOCH: Doctors in Fairfax, Virginia say he is in serious but stable condition and is being treated aggressively with antibiotics. He went to the hospital Friday afternoon with flu-like symptoms. The man handles express mail at the main Washington, D.C. post office at Brentwood and at an air mail center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

DR. RIMA KHABBAZ, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: We don't have any obvious history of his opening, you know, his handling any open package or leaking package. But in terms of details, we are still investigating it.

KOCH: Though officials say they don't know where the man was exposed, the two facilities are being shut down for environmental sweeps. The more than 2,000 postal employees who work at both locations are being tested and treated with Cipro.

UNIDENTIFIED POSTAL WORKER: I'm concerned about implementation of safeguards to protect not only myself, but my coworkers.

KOCH: As a result of this case, health officials in the Washington, D.C. area say they are now more closely monitoring anyone in hospitals with suspicious symptoms. Meanwhile, after environmental workers combed the Capitol for anthrax Saturday night, congressional leaders decided to open the Capitol Building Monday, but to keep the House and Senate office buildings closed for at least one more day.

(on camera): The big question now, for law enforcement authorities, did the man hospitalized here come in contact with the anthrax laden letter mailed to Senator Daschle, or was there another source?

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Fairfax, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Now from adults to children. Experts say that our kids are especially vulnerable to biological agents and here's a case in point. Pediatricians are now pointing to the 7-month-old baby an ABC News producer brought to work who did come down with the skin form of anthrax and now I'm going to warn you, we're going to show you a picture right now of that child's arm, and it may not be very easy to look at. Take a look at this. This picture was shown over the weekend at the conference of the American Academy of Pediatricians in San Francisco. Now, here's what the boy's arm is recovering from.

The pediatricians explained that children's skin is thinner than adult skin. The pediatricians also say that children could be more susceptible to aerosol sprays if they're used to spread biological agents because children are closer to the ground.

Ever so slowly, the FBI seems to be linking several of these letters together. Now, check this out. Agents confirm an anthrax tainted letter surfaced at the "New York Post" Friday. Granted, it looked like business as usual there outside the building, but not so in the newspaper's mail room. The FBI says the "Post's" letter bears the same Trenton, New Jersey postmark as the one sent to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and ABC News anchor Tom Brokaw. The FBI says the handwriting, the language and anthrax granules inside are also similar in size to those in the Daschle letter.

In Hamilton, New Jersey, preliminary tests are indicating a strong presence of anthrax at the post office there. The FBI took some 23 samples at the facility and 13 of them have come back positive. That has resulted in postal workers being tested for the disease. Results are not yet back on samples taken from a post office in West Trenton and that's where one worker has been confirmed as having the skin form of anthrax.

CALLAWAY: And a letter sent from the United States to Argentina has tested positive for the presence of anthrax. That letter was mailed from Miami and contained tourism pamphlets. The only person in the family who handled the letter has tested negative for anthrax.

And with news like that, you probably have a lot of questions. And you'll have your chance to ask them this afternoon. At 3:00 Eastern time when the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson will join Bobbi Batista on "TALK BACK LIVE" right here on CNN. We bet there's going to be a lot of questions today.

HARRIS: No doubt. No doubt. Twenty-six after the hour now. The U.S. is striking against the Taliban front line positions now.

CALLAWAY: And still to come, new hope and new concerns as opposition forces prepare to advance.

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