Officials Say FDA Building
Positive for Anthrax
By Todd Zwillich

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Bush administration officials confirmed Friday that anthrax spores had been detected in the main State Department building and in the downtown headquarters of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The buildings are serviced by the Brentwood mail distribution center in Washington, DC, the same facility where two postal workers died last week of inhalation anthrax. Officials said that they have no evidence of intentionally contaminated mail at the buildings, suggesting that letters were cross-contaminated by the tainted letter received at the office of Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-SD) 2 weeks ago.
But authorities said that their tests so far indicate little risk of contracting anthrax from non-governmental mail.
(HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said that spores had been detected in the mailroom at the Cohen Building, a structure adjacent to HHS headquarters that houses offices of the FDA and of Voice of America radio. The building has been closed for further testing.
"The Cohen Building has been presumptively positively tested for anthrax this past couple days, and all individuals in the mailroom are on antibiotics," Thompson said at a briefing of the White House Office of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge also confirmed that a location inside State Department headquarters in Washington had tested positive for spores. The positive test did not deter President Bush from visiting the building Monday morning for a speech on African trade.
The White House has scheduled homeland security briefings three times a week in an effort to avoid confusion on anthrax scares and other security issues. HHS officials said that they would still handle outreach on public health issues relating to anthrax.
Thompson also said that officials were in "very preliminary" discussions over whether or not to begin vaccinating anthrax cleanup crews and some postal workers against anthrax.
Public health authorities also addressed growing public concerns that mail bound for private citizens could have been cross-contaminated at Brentwood.
Scientists have performed 300 samples at 22 post offices where non-governmental mail was being handled, said Dr. Pat Meehan, the director for emergency and environmental services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those tests yielded one positive hit for trace amounts of anthrax.
"That suggests to us that it's starting to look like non-governmental mail was minimally affected by this so far," Meehan said. He went on to say that people living in the DC area and receiving mail there "are essentially at no risk of inhalation anthrax."
Meanwhile, some 13,000 postal workers--6,000 in Washington and Baltimore and more than 7,000 in New York and New Jersey--are taking antibiotics to guard against possible anthrax exposures, according to Thomas Day, the vice president for engineering at the US Postal Service.
Most workers have been ordered to switch from ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, to doxycycline, a cheaper but still effective antibiotic. "We tend to go to doxycycline because of the simpler dosing" and because the government has ample supplies of the drug, Meehan said.
The Postal Service has begun irradiating mail from Brentwood at another facility in Lima, Ohio. The government has ordered eight irradiating machines capable of sterilizing mail with electron beams for distribution at strategic points throughout the country.
"We're looking to get even more capacity, if possible, to increase the ability to irradiate mail," Day said.

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