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Florida Anthrax Investigation

The news came one week after a photo editor for The Sun,Robert Stevens, 63, died of pulmonary anthrax. Two other people who worked in the same American Media Inc. building were exposed to the deadly bacteria, but are said to be responding well to antibiotics.

Also today, an employee of NBC Nightly News was diagnosed with a skin infection of the disease. Officials, however, are not linking the two cases.

Hector Pesquera, chief of the Miami FBI office, said the agency had no evidence to connect the New York case with the three in Florida. “No link whatsoever so far.”

Attorney General Ashcroft also said today that two different criminal investigations would be conducted.

FBI agents dressed in white moon suits have been combing through the American Media building, where several popular tabloid magazines are published, and have found traces of anthrax on Stevens’ keyboard and in the company’s mailroom.

The FBI expanded its investigation of the Boca Raton contamination to nearby postal facilities and some postal workers are now being tested for the disease.

“This is a step of extraordinary precaution to protect public safety,” said Bradley Perkins, an investigator with the Centers for Disease Control.

Authorities emphasize that there is still no indication the anthrax was produced or caused by a terrorist group or individuals related to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

“If this was a massive exposure, there should be lots of people sick. We are not finding that,” Dr. Scott Lillibridge, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson’s special assistant for bioterrorism, told members of Congress in Washington.

How the deadly microorganisms got into the newspaper’s office remains unknown. Federal investigators have eliminated the obvious environmental sources, like contact with an infected animal, said Barbara Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Only 18 cases of inhalation anthrax were reported in the United States during the 20th century, the most recent in 1976 in California. Anthrax can be contracted from farm animals or soil, but most cases involve the less serious form that is contracted through the skin.

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