NEW YORK – The midtown Manhattan office of Gov. George Pataki showed the presence of anthrax in an initial test, the governor announced Wednesday. No workers were known to be exposed.
The governor's complex of offices on the 38th and 39th floors of a high-rise building on Third Avenue between 40th and 41st streets has been closed for further testing and decontamination work. Other offices in the building remained open.
About 80 employees were evacuated after the positive result on the initial test was returned Wednesday morning, Pataki said.
"One did test positive for the probability of anthrax," he said, adding that "the odds are very high" that subsequent testing will confirm the presence of the bacteria.
It was unclear how the anthrax was brought into the office, but the positive result happened on samples taken from an area occupied by the state police. Those officers were involved in the earlier investigation into anthrax reports at NBC and ABC, Pataki said, suggesting it may have arrived in his office that way.
"The state police have been obviously at NBC, at ABC, all over the environs over the course of the past month," Pataki said.
The tests were ordered Monday night in response to heightened concerns in Manhattan, after the second case of anthrax in the city was confirmed earlier in the day. The first was in a worker at NBC headquarters, the second in a baby boy who had been at ABC, where his mother works. Both have the relatively mild form of anthrax, contracted through the skin, and are expected to recover.
No employees in the governor's office have tested positive for anthrax but all of them, including Pataki, will begin taking the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution.
"I feel fine," Pataki said Wednesday morning. "I feel great."
Anthrax has now shown up in two Manhattan buildings -- the one housing the governor's office and the 70-story General Electric building that houses NBC in Rockefeller Center.
Three other people tested positive for anthrax exposure: two New York lab technicians and one policeman who worked on the NBC case. They also were treated with antibiotics.
City health officials on Wednesday issued a clean bill of health for the NBC headquarters.
"We've been waiting for good news for a long time," NBC chairman Bob Wright said in announcing that 500 employees had tested negative for anthrax. The building was being cleaned.
Pataki said his secretary had received a letter on Sept. 25 that she became concerned about, and turned it over to the state police. Tests on her and two mail handlers for anthrax were negative, he said.
"We don't believe that envelope was the source of the anthrax, but we don't know," Pataki said.
The governor told reporters the offices would likely reopen early next week. Pataki's main offices are in the state capital of Albany.
"I think everybody is committed to doing everything we can to make sure the state is run as well as it always has and to respond to this crisis," Pataki said.
About 100 ABC employees were tested for exposure after a 7-month-old boy visiting the newsroom contracted the disease. Environmental tests were completed at ABC headquarters in New York to try to pinpoint the source, but it could be days before results are known.
The ABC building "is the focus of the investigation but it's not clear whether that's where the exposure took place," said Sandra Mullin, spokeswoman for the city's health department.
On Friday, authorities announced that a female employee of NBC News was infected with the skin form by a letter carrying anthrax. Letters containing anthrax also were reported in Florida, where a man died of the inhaled form of the disease, and in Washington, D.C., and Nevada.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said officials were testing a number of media mailrooms around the city after the tests began Monday. Initial tests of some mailrooms were negative, he said. Among the news organizations tested were The Associated Press, CNN, CBS, Fox, The New York Times, Daily News and New York Post.