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D.C. Postal Worker Deaths Linked to Anthrax

Williams said, ”We now know that the two deaths that were reported to you and that you know about now are confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax.”

One of the men died Monday at a hospital in Clinton, Maryland. The other died late Sunday at a hospital in the District.

The two men still suffering from the potentially deadly inhaled form of anthrax remain hospitalized in suburban Virginia.

Williams said the Brentwood postal facility — the city’s main mail processing center, where all four of the men worked — has also tested positive for anthrax. Mail to Capitol Hill, where anthrax was discovered last week, and other parts of Washington flows through that center.

D.C. Health Department chief Dr. Ivan Walks said four additional people are being monitored for “suspicious” symptoms, while another 12 are being watched for a “very low suspicion” of anthrax.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control say a postal worker in New Jersey may also have inhaled anthrax. She is hospitalized in serious but stable condition and is receiving antibiotics, state health officials said.

Only one other person — Florida photographer Bob Stevens — has died from anthrax since the recent scare began three weeks ago. One of Stevens’ co-workers has been diagnosed with inhaled anthrax and remains hospitalized. Anthrax spores were also found in their Boca Raton offices.

D.C. treatment perimeter widens

Walks said officials in Washington have increased the number of people who would be treated with preventative antibiotics. The group now includes all staff at Brentwood, workers at all of the 36 post offices that received mail from Brentwood, and those who attended a press conference at the facility last week, including Mayor Williams.

Some postal employees have expressed anger at the amount of time it took officials to focus on the threat to the postal system.

Postal employees had requested testing earlier, Pat Johnson, president of the D.C. postal workers union told ABC, but “postal managers just evaded the questions.”

When asked why authorities waited until recently to test and treat postal workers, Williams said “if we knew then what we know now we would have acted earlier.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson told a House subcommittee today his department would act faster on reported anthrax threats.

“We are going to err on the side of caution in making sure people are protected,” Thompson said. “When a case of anthrax does emerge we will immediately move in at any and all postal facilities that might have handled that piece of mail.”

Still no confirmed link

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the Bush administration suspects the attacks are indeed “connected to international terrorists.

“Our nation is under attack as a result of these mailings,” he said.

When asked whether the White House suspected a link between the anthrax attacks and the events of Sept. 11, Fleischer said, “That’s been the operating suspicion of the White House for a considerable period of time.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft today said there is still no clear link between the recent spate of anthrax outbreaks and the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The attacks are terrorism nonetheless, Ashcroft said, and Justice Dept. officials are “aggressively” pursuing leads to find out who’s behind them.

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