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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   October 23, 2001

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

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


Suspected Positive Inhalational Anthrax Case of Postal Worker
is Announced in New Jersey


[NOTE TO PRESS: PLEASE NOTE ADDITION IN PRESS RELEASE]

Acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, MD today announced that one postal worker stationed at the Route 130 Mail Processing Center in Hamilton Township is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be a suspected case of inhalational anthrax. The patient is in stable condition and receiving antibiotics.

"Last Friday, I recommended that all postal workers in the Hamilton Township facility and the West Trenton facility see their physicians and begin a seven-day course of antibiotics as a precaution while the criminal and health investigation of potential exposure and disease progresses," said Dr. DiFerdinando. "Today, I am recommending a 10-day course of antibiotics and urge all those workers who haven't yet seen a doctor for a 10-day supply of antibiotics - to do so - and for those others to begin or keep taking it and get an additional supply."

"I am also recommending that all other workers who might have come into the workplace areas at the two facilities dating back to September 18th should see a physician and begin a 10-day course of antibiotics," added Dr. DiFerdinando.

Dr. DiFerdinando also urged all postal workers with any recent dermatological or pulmonary symptoms to see a physician at this time.

State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner Eddy Bresnitz, MD explained the postal worker was admitted to the hospital on Friday, October 19. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the CDC were notified of the patient's condition over the weekend. The patient presented with respiratory symptoms and initial tests for anthrax in the hospital were negative. Subsequent tests were reported suspected positive from the CDC. Additional lab results, including blood and serum samples, are expected from the CDC within a few days.

Dr. Bresnitz has informed Postal Service management about the suspected case and is continuing to meet with employees and their union leadership to provide information.

According to Dr. Bresnitz, the DHSS and CDC team are working with hospitals, laboratories and private physicians in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to identify any potential cases. CDC and DHSS investigators are also reviewing employee absentee records as part of their active surveillance activities.


A team consisting of representatives from DHSS, CDC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Postal Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service are all working on this investigation.

One postal worker from the West Trenton post office has been confirmed as a definite case of cutaneous anthrax in testing conducted by the CDC. A second postal worker stationed at the Hamilton Township facility is considered by the CDC to be a suspected case at this time. A third postal worker, also from the mail processing center in Hamilton Township but a resident of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has been confirmed as a definite case of cutaneous anthrax in testing conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

According to Dr. DiFerdinando, preliminary skin culture tests were negative as the two New Jerseyans 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. The skin biopsy was positive for anthrax. Serum specimens were positive for anthrax in both workers.

On October 13, both New Jersey patients' physicians notified the 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 14 and skin cultures were performed that same day. Blood for antibodies was sent to the CDC also on October 14. The skin biopsy was delivered to the State laboratory and examined by the State Medical Examiner on October 16, which was then sent to the CDC by the FBI later that day. The CDC received the biopsy specimen on October 17 and reported results to DHSS on the morning of October 18.

According to Secretary of Health Robert S. Zimmerman, the Pennsylvania's resident anthrax sample was forwarded October 17 from Frankford Hospital (Bucks County Campus) to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Bureau of Laboratories for testing on October 18 where laboratory tests of the sample detected anthrax bacteria. The patient is also being treated with antibiotics and is improving.

As of this morning, the state laboratory has received over 886 environmental samples, such as envelopes and packages, collected by law enforcement agencies from across the state. Testing on 272 of those specimens has been completed and all are negative for anthrax. In addition, 279 samples have tested negative in preliminary tests. The lab conducts preliminary (gram/spore stain) tests and culture tests on environmental samples and on clinical samples that meet established testing protocols.

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. Since the phone line opened on October 12, 2001, about 1,500 calls have been received. 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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