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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   November 9, 2001

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

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


DHSS Announces Test Results on New Jersey Postal Offices

TRENTON - Four environmental samples collected from 4 of 49 postal facilities that feed into the Route 130 Mail Processing Facility in Hamilton Township have tested positive for the presence of anthrax, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.

The four post offices, with one positive sample each, are: Princeton-Palmer Square; Rocky Hill; Jackson Main (at 915 Bennett's Mill Road); and Trenton Station E (1137 Hamilton Avenue). The positive environmental samples were collected in non-public areas of the post offices.

"We conducted extensive sampling in these facilities, collecting a total of 896 environmental samples," said Assistant Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, MD. "Given that we found just four isolated positive samples, this is most likely a case of cross contamination from letters that came from the Hamilton Mail Processing Facility in October. The risk of any workers at these post offices developing anthrax disease at this point is extremely low."

As a result of these findings, DHSS and CDC are recommending that the area in each facility where the positive sample was collected be cleaned this weekend. The agencies are not recommending that the post offices be closed. They are also not recommending that employees take prophylactic antibiotics. Workers at these 49 facilities who began antibiotics as a precautionary measure can discontinue taking them. Workers who continue to have health concerns have been advised to speak with their health care provider or representatives of the health services available to postal employees.

"To date, there have been no cases of cutaneous or inhalational anthrax linked to these four post offices, and the most recent date of onset of symptoms in any New Jersey case was now more than three weeks ago," Dr. Bresnitz said.

The samples reported out today were collected on November 3, after acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco directed the department to sample all local post offices in central New Jersey not previously sampled that have their mail processed at the Hamilton facility. The 10 two-person teams that collected the samples also met with postal employees before beginning their work to answer questions and address concerns.

Today's results bring to seven the number of postal facilities in New Jersey where anthrax has been detected. Anthrax spores had also been found in a mail bin in one private business in Hamilton Township.

In addition to samples collected at postal facilities, the state laboratory has received more than 1,735 environmental samples, such as envelopes and packages, collected by law enforcement agencies from across the state. Testing on 1,666 of those specimens has been completed and all are negative for anthrax. The lab conducts culture tests on environmental samples and on clinical samples that meet established testing protocols.

DHSS has a bioterrorism phone line at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 609-538-6030 that is open between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. until further notice. Since October 12, more than 4,350 calls have been received at the EOC. Hearing-impaired residents with anthrax-related concerns can contact the Department through the New Jersey Relay Center by dialing either 711 or 1-800-852-7899. The Relay Center will convey the caller's message to DHSS at the EOC. Information is also available on the website at www.state.nj.us/health.

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MEDIA NOTE: The 49 local post offices sampled include Allentown, Belle Mead, Blawenburg, Bordentown, Chambersburg, Clarksburg, Cookstown, Cranbury, Crosswicks, Cream Ridge, Florence, Fort Dix, Hightstown, Hillsborough, Hopewell, Imlaystown, Jackson-Main, Jackson-Cassville, Jamesburg, Kingston, Lambertville, Lawrenceville, McGuire AFB, Mercerville, Monroe Township, New Brunswick, New Egypt, Pennington, Perrineville, Plainsboro, Princeton Junction, Princeton-Palmer Square, Ringoes (both old and new), Rocky Hill, Roebling, Roosevelt, Rosemount, Sergeantsville, Skillman, Stockton, Titusville, Trenton-Circle Branch, Trenton-Downtown, Trenton-Station E, Trenton-Station C, Windsor, Wrightstown, and Yardville.

Interim Guidelines For Minimizing Risk From Cutaneous And Inhalation Anthrax For Mail Handlers

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

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