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Mail Handler for State Department Reportedly has Anthrax

Aired October 25, 2001 - 14:06   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Yet another report about anthrax. This one from the State Department. I believe Andrea Koppel is there now. Andrea, tell us what you heard from the podium there?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we have been told, Judy, by the State Department spokesman Richard Baucher is that this individual, unidentified man, is a State Department employee, but this person works in the main mail-handling facility for the State Department and that's located in Sterling, Virginia.

This man is said to have anthrax. We don't know whether or not it's the skin variety or the inhaled version, but he is in the hospital right now and taking Cipro. As are all other mail handlers for the State Department. We don't know how many there are. But there are six facilities we are told that are scattered both in this building and outside the building, and all State Department mail handlers are staking Cipro or taking this antibiotic.

Now, according to Richard Boucher, this mail handling facility in Sterling, Virginia got all of the mail from Brentwood. And Brentwood as we all know is the main processing center where two people have died due to anthrax. We know that there is testing that is going on as of today, that is taking place out at Sterling, Virginia. But we don't know if there is testing that is taking place at the other five mail-handling facilities for the State Department.

So it is not that it is necessarily in the building, but the mail, at least the person who was -- who is now being diagnosed with anthrax handled the mail that came to this building -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Andrea this just raises all sorts of questions about whether it could have been just the one letter to Senator Daschle, which passed through the Brentwood facility, whether that one letter could have spread anthrax not only in the Senate office building and near a freight elevator in the Senate office building, but could have spread it to a number of people at Brentwood and now perhaps to an individual at this postal facility you're describing, which in my mind, at least, raises the question about whether there was more than one letter.

KOPPEL: Exactly. And that is an answer State Department officials don't have as of yet. The testing only began today out at that sterling, Virginia mail-handling center. And, obviously, they are going to be looking to see if there's any traces of anthrax there. But certainly the person who is believed to contracted anthrax, the man who worked at that facility is now on Cipro because they believe he obviously came into contact with it, and that's where he happens to work.

WOODRUFF: And you don't know whether it is inhaled or the skin type? KOPPEL: We don't know. I think -- understandably the people who work in this building tend to deal a lot with foreign policy and haven't had any experience dealing with the domestic bioterrorism. And so we're asking all kinds of questions like how many mail handlers are there? Where are the mail-handling facilities? And they don't have the answers right now. They are looking into it and hopefully we will have the answers soon -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And another very quick one, Andrea, the State Department itself has been swept and tested for anthrax?

KOPPEL: It's a good question, Judy, and we're told that it has not been swept. It hasn't been checked for anthrax. We know because we've had a couple of scares in the past couple of weeks in which we've seen people in those spacesuits coming into the building checking out one of the mail-handling places on the seventh floor of this building.

But we did ask that question of Richard Baucher, the State Department spokesperson, and he said to his knowledge the State Department has not been checked for anthrax.

WOODRUFF: I'm not a betting person, but I would imagine that's something they are going to be looking at doing now.

Andrea Koppel, thanks very much.

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