Worker at Second N.J. Post Office May Have Anthrax

An employee at a second regional postal center in New Jersey is suspected of having skin anthrax, and the facility was closed on Wednesday.

New Jersey has five confirmed cases of anthrax and one other suspected case.

The postal worker with the new suspected case works as a mail processor in the Bellmawr regional mail facility in Camden County, about 35 miles from the Hamilton postal facility that handled at least three anthrax-tainted letters, said Ray Daiutolo, a spokesman for the Bellmawr office.

Blood tests were positive for anthrax antibodies and officials were awaiting results from a biopsy, Daiutolo said.

Postal officials on Wednesday halted all operations at the Bellmawr plant, which serves 159 local post offices and delivers mail to 1.1 million locations in southern New Jersey and parts of Delaware.

Mail at the plant will stay there until tests show no anthrax is present, Daiutolo said. Nearly all the facility's first-class mail was delivered Wednesday, but bulk mail, business class and advertisements remained, he said.

Four New Jersey postal workers have confirmed cases of anthrax and a fifth was treated with antibiotics before his suspected case of skin anthrax could be confirmed. They worked at either the Hamilton regional mail processing center or the West Trenton post office.

Anthrax has been found at the Hamilton plant and in the Princeton post office, another regional mail facility. Both remained closed for tests Wednesday. No one at the Princeton center is ill.

Postal officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to open mobile laboratories at the Bellmawr center where the 1,300 postal employees could be tested.

A sixth New Jersey resident, a woman who did not work for the Postal Service or visit any post office recently, also has skin anthrax. The 51-year-old accountant from Hamilton has been successfully treated with antibiotics and released from a hospital, officials said.

Authorities had no immediate theory of how the woman contracted the disease. FBI spokeswoman Sandra Carroll said environmental tests were conducted Tuesday at the woman's home and office.

"(The officials) have been very forthcoming with us" about their investigations, Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "But at the same time, they are also very candid that they don't have all the answers at this point."

Meanwhile, some 1,300 New Jersey Turnpike toll collectors are being required to wear rubber gloves when collecting cash, said Edward Gross, executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. "This is just a very easy step to take to provide protection," Gross said Wednesday.

A report scheduled for release Wednesday by a coalition of public health agencies says New Jersey's public health system is fragmented and underfunded. The state is a major port of entry for international visitors and products.

The anthrax scare and larger concerns about bioterrorism attacks have highlighted weaknesses ranging from local health officials who lack office computers and 24-hour beepers to difficulty monitoring illness patterns statewide, says the report by Public Health: CARE.