Possible home anthrax mailings 'intensively investigated'

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Possible home anthrax mailings 'intensively investigated'

October 30, 2001 Posted: 5:37 p.m. EST (2237 GMT)

(CNN) --

A top federal health official said Tuesday that authorities are "intensively investigating" the possibility that private homes are being targeted for anthrax-tainted mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

"Up to [Monday], there was no evidence at all that there could be -- or is -- an individual in which there might be the reasonable question, 'Did they get infected from a piece of mail that went to their home?'" said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. "That is being intensively investigated right now."

Speaking at a White House news conference, Fauci said the investigation had turned in that direction after suspicions arose that a New Jersey woman and another in New York had contracted anthrax without coming into contact with a mail-handling facility.

New York City health officials on Tuesday confirmed that an ailing hospital work is suffering from inhalation anthrax. New York City Health Commissioner Neal Cohen said additional blood work and tests confirmed the diagnosis. The 61-year-old woman is listed in critical condition at Lenox Hill Hospital. The unidentified woman works in the supply room of Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, which has been closed for environmental testing.

In New Jersey, a 51-year-old woman who lives near the Hamilton Township mail-processing center, where traces of anthrax have been found, tested positive for skin anthrax but is doing fine, health officials said. The woman, who is not a postal employee or member of the media, was released from a hospital two days ago, the officials said. New Jersey officials also confirmed Monday that a postal worker has inhalation anthrax.

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), October 30, 2001

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