WASHINGTON – Anthrax has been found in the main buildings that house the Supreme Court and the State Department, officials revealed on Monday. A third building, which houses the Voice of America and the Food and Drug Administration, also tested positive for the lethal bacterium.
Nobody at any of the three buildings is known to have become infected, officials said.
Dr. John Eisold, the Capitol's attending physician, said about 400 people at the high court — including the nine justices — had been tested for anthrax, and "the good news is that the testing that I've done with nasal swabs on everybody is negative."
Everyone at the court who was tested received a six-day supply of the antibiotic doxycycline. The justices were among the first to be tested and also were prescribed the drug.
The anthrax was found in a section of the court's basement mailroom, and tests in other sections of the mailroom and in the rest of the building showed no evidence of the bacterium, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
She said testing will continue at the building, which has been closed since Friday, when anthrax was detected at an offsite mail sorting facility. The main building will remain closed at least through Tuesday, Arberg said.
The Supreme Court justices met Monday at U.S. District Court.
At the State Department, officials said anthrax had been found in two mailrooms but that the ventilation system had not been affected. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two pieces of mail had tested positive and had come directly from the central Brentwood mail processing facility in the nation's capital.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the mail may have been taken to the State Department from a mailroom across the street.
"My understanding is that it involved mail that was received at a remote facility across the street ... from the State Department that was brought into the State Department, into the mailrooms of the State Department," Fleischer said.
He said the Secret Service was aware of the possibility before President Bush traveled to the State Department for a speech Monday morning, and that "it did not pose any problem for the president or his traveling party."
The latest positive test results followed the discovery of anthrax at the Justice Department, where officials announced Sunday night that several locations in an offsite facility that handles its mail had tested positive for anthrax.
Additional Anthrax Cases in New Jersey
A New Jersey woman who handles mail at a business near a regional post office that processed anthrax-tainted letters has skin anthrax, making her the first person in the state infected who is not a postal worker, state officials said.
The Hamilton Township resident has been successfully treated and released from the hospital, state officials said Monday at an afternoon news conference.
She is the sixth case connected to New Jersey of known or suspected anthrax. Four other cases involved workers at Hamilton's regional mail center and a fifth involved a letter carrier from nearby Ewing.
In response, Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco on Monday ordered environmental testing for anthrax spores at some 44 post offices in seven counties that send mail to the regional processing center in Hamilton. Some have already been tested.
The Hamilton processing center, which cancels mail with a Trenton postmark, is the source of at least three anthrax-tainted letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office in Washington, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and the New York Post.
A female postal worker at the Hamilton processing center remains hospitalized with the state's only confirmed case of inhalation anthrax, the more serious form of the disease. She has been listed as improving at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.
A second postal worker with a suspected case of inhalation anthrax has been released from a hospital.
Another employee at the Hamilton processing center and a letter carrier who delivered mail in Ewing have contracted confirmed cases of skin anthrax. A third post worker at the Hamilton center was treated for a suspected case.
Late Monday night, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that a 61-year-old stockroom worker at a Manhattan hospital had tested positive in preliminary tests for inhalation anthrax. She was in "very, very serious" condition and on a respirator, Giuliani said.
'Aggressive Surveillance' in Washington
With anthrax present at more than 10 locations in the nation's capital, a spokesman for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said residents need not fear inhalation anthrax when they open their mail. He said they "may have a very, very small risk of cutaneous-type anthrax."
"It's important to remember we're doing very aggressive surveillance," said Dr. Patrick Meehan.
Officials said the anthrax found in a letter to Daschle, D-S.D., included silica. "We don't know why it would be there," said Maj. Gen. John Parker, who heads the Army's Fort Detrick, Md., laboratory.
Silica, or silicon dioxide, is found in nature as sand, quartz or flint.
It is a colorless, tasteless crystal that is commonly used as a drying agent in pharmaceuticals and in food production. It helps control caking or clumping in powered products.
Parker said officials had ruled out the presence of aluminum in the sample. That, he said, meant there was no bentonite, a lubricant that he said would make the spores spread through the air more easily.
Officials had said previously that the anthrax in Daschle's mail had been changed to make it more readily float into the air, and thus become more likely to be inhaled into the lungs.
In all, officials have tallied 15 confirmed cases of anthrax in the last three weeks, including three deaths from the inhalation form of the disease.
Three — two Washington postal workers and a Florida photo editor — have died, and five others have been diagnosed with inhaled anthrax. Six people have the less serious cutaneous form of the disease, which affects the skin.
Deborah Willhite, a Postal Service senior vice president, said the agency was working with the Defense Department on obtaining technology that would allow it to detect bacteria in the mail. It already has signed a $40 million contract to buy machines that can sanitize mail.
More than 10,000 people who may have been exposed to the bacteria have been urged to begin taking antibiotics as a precaution. But others have been urged to stay drug-free.
"If you try and pre-emptively go down the line you have a never-ending spiraling of essentially treating everybody and you really can't do that," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said on NBC's Today show.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.