OXFORD, Conn. – A 94-year-old Connecticut woman died of inhalation anthrax Wednesday, five days after she was admitted to a hospital.
But how Ottilie Lundgren came into contact with the deadly bacteria continued to baffle authorities, who saw no connection between her rural community and bioterror attacks in New York, Washington and Florida.
Lundgren died at 10:32 a.m. EST, a Griffin Hospital official said. She was brought to the Derby hospital Friday suffering from an apparent respiratory infection. She had fallen ill a couple of days earlier.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were expected to conduct an autopsy.
Lundgren became the fifth person in the country to die of anthrax since the bioterror scare began early last month. The others were a photo editor in Boca Raton, Fla., two postal workers outside Washington, and a hospital worker in New York City.
"It doesn't seem like something of this magnitude should happen in a town like this," said John Dunleavey, 23, who grew up in Lundgren's neighborhood.
Lundgren lived by herself in a modest ranch-style home in Oxford, about 30 miles southwest of Hartford.
Her niece, Shirley Davis, told The Hartford Courant that she checked on her aunt several times a day since she stopped driving. "She went to the hairdresser's and to [church] when she was up to it. I nearly fainted when the doctors told me they suspected anthrax."
Her pastor, the Rev. Richard Miesel of Immanuel Lutheran Church, said Lundren "was baptized and she was a believer. She belonged to Jesus and she is safe in his grace."
CDC authorities in Atlanta confirmed Wednesday morning that Lundgren had inhalation anthrax, the most deadly form of the disease. She was brought to the hospital Friday suffering from an apparent respiratory infection, but a series of lab tests quickly led doctors to suspect anthrax.
"With the notoriety of this and the rapidity with which she was treated, we had some hope she might be able to rally, but at age 94 things certainly didn't go as we and her family would have wished," said Dr. Kenneth Dobuler, chief of medicine at the hospital.
Gov. John G. Rowland said the early investigation was focusing on the mails, "because that has been the cause of other anthrax scares in the past."
"At her age she has not traveled a great deal, so that's why the suspicions lead directly to mail and cross-contamination of some sort," Rowland said.
The governor said investigators from the FBI, the CDC, state police and the state Department of Public Health were working at Lundgren's home.
"We're also working with the two postal facilities in Wallingford and Seymour," he said.
The large Wallingford processing center handles mail for southern Connecticut and was checked earlier this month for anthrax contamination. No problems were found.
Rowland said they are doing interviews with about 1,000 postal employees and offering them antibiotics.
There was no indication Lundgren is related to any government official or member of the media, or had any public activity that would cause her to be a target of terrorism.
Marvin Fast, spokesman for Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, said the senator's office did not appear to have had any correspondence with Lundgren. Dodd's office in Washington was found to contain trace amounts of anthrax on Tuesday.
Oxford, a town with less than 10,000 residents, has one bank and no hotel, according to state data from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Most of the town — more than 80 percent — is open land north of the Housatonic River in the Naugatuck Valley.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.