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D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams Holds Press Conference

Aired October 25, 2001 - 16:56   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, talking to reporters with an update on the anthrax situation.


ANTHONY WILLIAMS, MAYOR, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: ... for their close support and cooperation -- Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, who is a chief health officer for the District of Columbia.

Chris Murray is here. He is the FBI public information officer for the Washington field office. We all know Deborah Willhite, who is the senior vice president for government relations at the postal service, and from CDC, Dr. Patrick Meehan, who is the director of -- division of emergency and environmental health services.

Let me give you the latest information, as we have it, and then I will turn this over, as always, to Dr. Walks for some further briefing for you.

The people -- the number of people processed -- we have processed a total number of people. In some cases this is treatment, in the treatment that gives you an environmental sense of the situation as well as the Cipro, and in some cases the treatment alone -- a total of 7,644 people as of 3:40 p.m. this afternoon.

In terms of these patients and the breakout of the patients, we all know the four confirmed cases as they exist right now. And, as always, our hearts and prayers go out to those who have been lost here -- the deaths involved. We know of the two stable, but in serious condition, patients at Inova Fairfax.

We have one suspected case. I think you all know the definition of suspected case now. This is clinical with supportive laboratory evidence without known exposure or clinical with supportive laboratory evidence with known exposure. And Ivan can go into the details of that.

There is one suspicious case involving a State Department contract employee at the mail facility in Sterling. Facility -- this is a facility that I understand is fed by Brentwood. This is a facility that was already on the list for treatment and testing, the list that we gave you yesterday. That is something we are following. Good news is that the stories that you've heard about children involved here with anthrax have not been confirmed. There are no cases of children with anthrax at this time. We have 10 clinical -- 10 cases of clinical illness, warranting further precautionary investigation. And there are 23 cases involving low suspicion.

In the case of this employee with the State Department, we pray for his speedy recovery. He is on the list of facilities that were targeted for testing and treatment. Having said that, though, we are taking this new information and will be evaluating the public health strategy as I'm sure the officials here will be evaluating their public health recommendation to me and to federal authorities involved.

With that, I'm going to turn this now over to Ivan Walks to provide you with further briefing, then to Deborah Willhite, Dr. Meehan and then we'll take your questions -- Dr. Walks.

DR. IVAN WALKS, D.C. CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER: Thank you Mr. Mayor and good afternoon.

Today we do have a significant change from yesterday. Yesterday, we had the four confirmed cases and we didn't have any -- we had a zero in the number of suspected cases.

Since then, yesterday evening, a gentleman who worked at a facility that receives its mail directly from Brentwood, did report to the hospital. He received initial evaluation. That evaluation was quite suspicious for anthrax.

His clinical presentation was quite suspicious. He is in the hospital, actually, and he's receiving good care. And, as of about an hour ago -- and since I called somebody critical who wasn't once before -- his condition is described as guarded.

Now, that gentleman is, as the mayor said, on the list. I think yesterday, you all saw Debbie Willhite take a list back from me that she had handed to me and hold up that list. And the facility where he worked is, in fact, on that list.

It does, however, represent the first case, and though this case is not a confirmed case, it is highly suspicious and we are at the point of awaiting one confirmatory test. So I don't know how much better to tell you -- highly, highly suspicious. We are awaiting one final confirmatory test. It is, in fact, the first confirmatory test in our region that does not have a direct link -- "I was in the back room" kind of link to the Brentwood facility.

And so we are looking to see what exactly that means, with respect to this gentleman's exposure. We think that that's consistent with what we have said before, that the locations that received mail directly from Brentwood, mail in bulk, need to be tested -- the environments while employees receive immediate treatment. So this gentleman is in fact in that category. As the mayor said, I got many calls today about a 2-year-old and an 11-year-old. These were two cases -- two children that folks were very much concerned about. One of those children was, in fact, -- and I have a 2-year-old so I know how this goes -- had an upper respiratory infection which kids get.

So neither of those children is currently -- and we've been following them for a little while now. They are on this list that we're putting out twice a day. But neither of them has moved up, as a matter of fact, they've moved down and out of our -- they moved lower on our list. They were never in our suspected cases list.

And that is one of the things that -- let me just close with this. We strive to -- and we do -- gather information from around the region. I've talked daily -- I've spoken today with Anne Peterson, the health commissioner in Virginia. I have spoken today with Georges Benjamin, the secretary of health for the state of Maryland, Dr. Michael Richardson, who is a senior deputy director in our department of health -- actually tracks down these folks in conjunction with the CDC to make sure that we report accurate information.

When we have a highly suspicious case, we will tell you when we know, real time. The gentleman who we're talking about now came in last night, was admitted over the course of the night and we knew today, and we are telling you today.

I have heard some reports in the media about 10 suspicious cases. There are four confirmed cases. There's one suspicious case that is awaiting one final confirmatory test. When we have that test, we will let you know.

There are not 10 or 12 highly suspicious cases. There are not children who are highly suspicious for having received anthrax. I know that one of the children is reported to be a child of a Brentwood postal worker and so those kinds of things raise concerns. The fact that the child is that how -- connected is true. But the fact that the child is highly suspicious for anthrax infection is not true.

Thank you.

WILLIAMS: OK, let me ask...

WOODRUFF: Dr. Ivan Walks, the chief public health officer for the District of Columbia, confirming that a Department of State employee, someone who works in a mail facility -- mail that would have come bulk mail from the Brentwood post office facility on to the State Department -- is apparently -- is on a highly suspicious circumstances, in the hospital, diagnosed with what may be inhalation anthrax.

Now this is a new case beyond the two deaths and the two other confirmed cases of inhalation anthrax here in the District of Columbia. And as you just heard Dr. Walks say, this would be the first case with a link to someone who did not work at Brentwood, but who dealt with mail that was in and out of the Brentwood facility. And, just quickly, Mayor Tony Williams began by saying that as of an hour and a half ago, 7,644 people in the District of Columbia have been processed and received treatment.




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