All four men worked at the Brentwood postal facility, the city’s main mail processing center. Mail to Capitol Hill — where anthrax was discovered last week — and other parts of Washington flows through that center.
Dr. Ivan Walks, the city’s chief health official, said the second unidentified man is undergoing treatment in a suburban Virginia hospital for inhaled anthrax.
Walks told employees who worked in the Brentwood postal facility to “immediately” travel to DC General Hospital to be tested and receive antibiotics.
“Anyone who was working in that back postal area during the last 11 days, you must today immediately come here … to receive prophylactic medication and to be evaluated,” Walks said.
Authorities are investigating as many as nine other cases that have caused concern, Walks said, but he did not specify how many of those cases involved postal employees.
Two other people nationwide have been diagnosed with the most serious form of anthrax infection in the past three weeks. The first, Florida photographer Bob Stevens, died Oct. 5. A co-worker, Ernesto Blanco, remains hospitalized with the disease.
Anthrax testing continues
Some 2,000 employees from the Brentwood facility should be tested for exposure to anthrax, officials said.
Another 150 people at an air mail center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport where at least one of the infected men handled mail, have also been told to get tested.
The two facilities have been closed for environmental testing. Mail normally handled at those locations will be processed elsewhere.
Postmaster General Jack Potter said the U.S. Postal Service was looking into new technology in the wake of the anthrax scare.
“We’re looking at introducing technology to sanitize mail. We want to become the leader in terms of addressing these biochemical threats,” he told NBC.
Potter said he will ask Congress for financial assistance to help the already cash-strapped postal system cope with the bioterrorism threat. Before the anthrax attacks, the system was already facing a 1.5 billion deficit, he said.
Capitol reopens; testing continues in offices
Today’s developments come after days of heavy testing on Capitol Hill sparked by an anthrax-contaminated letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
On Saturday, investigators found anthrax spores on the House side as well — on a machine used for sorting mail in the Ford House Office Building, three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
The machine sorts mail sent to the House’s Longworth Office Building, which houses the offices of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), according to a police statement.
The U.S. Capitol building reopened today after health officials conducted anthrax tests.
Both houses of Congress are expected to meet tomorrow, although officials said at least some Congressional office buildings will remain closed until Wednesday at the earliest.