CBS News employee tests positive for anthrax

New York governor's office evacuated

By Shannon McCaffrey

The Associated Press

NEW YORK An employee in CBS anchor Dan Rather's office has tested positive for the skin form of anthrax, network officials said Thursday.

It's the same form of anthrax that infected an aide to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw after she handled a letter that was addressed to him.

"She is expected to make a full recovery; in fact, she feels fine," CBS News president Andrew Heyward said. He said she was being treated with antibiotics.

It was not immediately known how the employee became infected. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the case dates to Oct. 1, when she apparently began to experience swelling. Because the woman handled mail, investigators believe the anthrax was delivered in an envelope, city officials said.

Giuliani said there was no sign of anyone else at CBS with symptoms, and Health Commissioner Neal Cohen said there were no public health concerns in the West 57th Street building.

Officials said the environment at CBS News' headquarters would be sampled beyond the mailroom, but the building had not been evacuated. A team of investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city Health Department entered the building Thursday morning without protective suits.

CBS is the third network to have an encounter with anthrax, and the announcement came a day after Gov. George Pataki's New York City office tested positive for anthrax bacteria.

Pataki said he is taking the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution, but does not plan to get tested for the disease that has infected two other people in New York City. Three more have tested positive for exposure.

"I don't think it's necessary," Pataki said Wednesday. "I feel great."

He said Thursday he was following the CDC's recommendations.

"This is a war of terror aimed at our minds and aimed at our way of life, and that's why we can't overreact," Pataki said on NBC's "Today" show. "Yes, we have to be vigilant; yes, we have to be concerned. But we also have to be confident that government and law enforcement is doing everything that can be done to protect us."

A positive result from an initial anthrax test of his Manhattan office came back Wednesday morning. Results from more sophisticated environmental tests are due by Friday but Pataki said he believes they will prove anthrax was present.

In Washington, the Capitol was closed for anthrax testing after 31 Senate employees tested positive for exposure. Among them were 23 members of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's staff. A suspicious letter was opened in Daschle's office Monday.

Nine New York congressional members flew home after the House shut down until Tuesday, including Rep. Anthony Weiner, who reassured New Yorkers that there was no panic. "We are not gulping Cipro in Washington," he said.

All 80 employees in Pataki's Manhattan office were relocated to the Jacob Javits Convention Center and have testing and Cipro available to them, the governor said.

He suggested the suspected anthrax found on a desk in "secure" state police offices could have been tracked in by state police who accompanied him to NBC and ABC offices where anthrax cases were discovered.

Pataki also ordered the state Capitol in Albany tested for anthrax.

Health officials gave a clean bill of health to NBC's headquarters in Rockefeller Center. Tests on some 500 employees all came back negative.

The CDC's Dr. David Fleming announced that preliminary testing indicated the strain of anthrax found in the letter addressed to Brokaw "appears to match the strain in Florida," where a man died of anthrax and a second man is hospitalized. Fleming said it is not clear whether the Washington anthrax comes from the same strain.

An anthrax test of the air filters at ABC's Manhattan headquarters came back negative, the network said. On Monday, the 7-month-old son of an ABC News producer tested positive for anthrax. The cause has not been pinpointed.

Besides the CBS and NBC employees and the infant at ABC, three people in New York have tested positive for anthrax exposure: two New York lab technicians and one policeman who worked on the NBC case. They were treated with antibiotics.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus