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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   October 18, 2001

   (Amended 9:3opm)

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160

Update on Cutaneous Anthrax Cases in New Jersey

TRENTON -Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco announced at a press conference earlier today that
one postal worker stationed at the West Trenton post office has been confirmed as a definite case of cutaneous anthrax in testing conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). DiFrancesco also said that a second postal worker from the Route 130 Mail Processing Center in Hamilton Township is considered by the CDC to be a possible case at this time.

"I want to again remind New Jerseyans to remain calm, but vigilant. From law enforcement to public health, we are doing everything we can to protect your health and safety," said DiFrancesco. "There is no reason to alter your daily routine and everyone should continue about their lives as normal while maintaining a higher degree of awareness of your surroundings."

According to Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, MD, preliminary skin culture tests were negative as the patients had been on antibiotics before testing. Blood samples for both workers and a skin biopsy from one worker were sent to the CDC for further testing using special reagents. The skin biopsy was positive for anthrax. Serum specimens were positive for anthrax in both workers.

On October 13, 2001, both patients' physicians notified the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) after hearing about the cancelled letter from Trenton that was sent to New York City. They reported that their patients may have been in contact with the letter received by Tom Brokaw at NBC-TV. Both patients had been treated with antibiotics in late September to early October.

The DHSS received specimens from both patients on October 14th and cultures were performed that same day. Blood for antibodies was sent to the CDC also on October 14th. The skin biopsy was delivered to the State laboratory and examined by the State Medical Examiner on October 16th, which was then sent to the CDC and the FBI later that day. The CDC received the biopsy specimen on October 17th and reported results to DHSS on the morning of October 18th.

Dr. DiFerdinando said that the CDC has sent a team to work with the DHSS, law enforcement and postal officials on the further investigation and response to this situation. The federal and state team will be developing a medical protocol and further recommendations. Representatives from the Department of Health and Senior Services are meeting with employees and working with their union leadership to provide information.

According to Dr. DiFerdinando, the state laboratory has received over 400 environmental samples to date - and all testing completed to date on the environmental samples has been negative for anthrax. The lab conducts preliminary (gram/spore stain) tests and culture tests on environmental samples and on clinical samples that meet established testing protocols. Testing on all environmental samples in the DHSS lab is final, while all clinical samples are sent on to the CDC for additional testing.

The Department has established a bioterrorism phone line at the Emergency Operations Center at 609-538-6030 that is open between 8 am and 11 pm until further notice. From 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., the number is 609-392-2020. Information is also available on the website at www.state.nj.us/health.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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