Anthrax Scare Hits Justice Dept.

A facility that handles mail for the Justice Department has tested positive for anthrax, a department spokeswoman said Sunday night.

Samples from a variety of locations within the suburban Landover, Md., facility showed the presence of anthrax, said spokeswoman Susan Dryden. The locations included areas that handle mail for Attorney General John Ashcroft, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and other departmental leaders.

Mail for the Justice Department is processed first at the Brentwood mail facility in the District of Columbia, which is now closed, before being sent to the Landover location. Two mail handlers at the Brentwood facility have died.

The Justice Department's in-house mail facilities had stopped receiving mail from the Landover facility several days ago as a precaution. At this point no other Justice Department facility has tested positive for anthrax, Dryden said.

The Landover facility handles mail for the Justice Department and some of its component agencies. Dryden did not know which agencies but said the FBI's mail is not handled there. The FBI is an agency of the Justice Department.

Mailrooms within the department have been tested for anthrax, Dryden said, and the results are expected this week. The department's mailroom, located in the basement, has been closed.

Justice Department and contract employees who handle mail or who are in frequent contact with mailrooms in the building were contacted and asked to report to D.C. General Hospital on Monday for a 10-day supply of antibiotics.

Landover employees, who had been given a 10 day supply, were told to go to D.C. General for an additional 50-day supply of antibiotics.

Ashcroft has not been tested for anthrax and is not taking antibiotics, Dryden said.