Published August 13, 2002
| Associated Press
NEWARK, N.J. – Anthrax spores were found inside a Princeton mailbox tested after workers at a regional mail sorting facility contracted the bacteria in October, Gov. James E. McGreevey said.
The mailbox was removed last week and there is no danger to the public, McGreevey said Monday. He spoke at a press conference with the state attorney general, David Samson, and Louie Allen, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office.
"No new cases have been detected beyond the original cases in October 2001," McGreevey said. "With the subsequent removal of the mailbox, no further threat exists."
McGreevey said he did not know when the tests were done. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to say.
The mailbox is a standard blue public drop-box that was located on Nassau Street near Princeton University.
Its mail was fed through the sorting facility in Hamilton Township, and was among 600 chosen to be swabbed for anthrax spores by the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, McGreevey said. He did not know how or why the mailboxes were chosen.
Thirty-nine of the 600 mailboxes have yet to be tested.
U.S. Attorney Chris Christie issued a statement confirming the governor's announcement. He said the matter was under investigation.
Drewniak declined to say what effect the positive test might have on the investigation.
Dr. Clifton Lacy, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the test results came back positive Thursday at the department's Public Health and Environmental Laboratory.
"It was not a field test," he said. "It was a sample done in the laboratory."
Lacy said a department survey of 240,000 emergency room visits and 7,100 stays in intensive care units in and around the state following the October infections turned up no new anthrax cases.
Hamilton handles mail for 46 area post offices and has been closed since Oct. 18. The office processed anthrax-tainted letters sent to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy and the New York Post.