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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
Anthrax confirmed in New York
A fire fighter decontaminates an FBI agent at the AMI building in Florida
The Florida outbreak is under criminal investigation
An employee of the American NBC media network in New York has tested positive for anthrax.

President Bush said the case was a cause for concern but said the government was "responding rapidly".


I want everyone in the country to know we're responding rapidly

President Bush
And New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that the chances of the infection being contained were "very good".

One man died on 5 October after inhaling anthrax and two others were infected after testing positive for exposure in a separate incident in Florida, sparking fears of an act of bio-terrorism.

The FBI has not established evidence of a link between either case and the 11 September terror attacks in Washington or New York.

But US Attorney General John Ashcroft said that a criminal investigation had been opened into the second case.

Anthrax specimen
It is unlikely the anthrax occurred naturally
Tests are also being carried out on a letter said to contain a mysterious powder which was received by the New York Times on Friday.

Mr Giuliani said some of the building which houses NBC's offices would be closed for a few days for environmental testing and all employees tested for infection.

An NBC statement said that its employee, a woman, was tested positive for cutaneous - or skin - anthrax, which is unrelated to the respiratory form which caused the infections in Florida.

The employee, who is understood to have opened an envelope containing a powder, was in no danger and was responding well to treatment, the statement added.

'Hijack link'

Reuters news agency quoted the editorial director of American Media Inc., in whose offices the Florida infections occurred (AMI), Steve Coz as saying photo editor Robert Stevens may have died after handling a letter contaminated with anthrax spores.


If you just look at the incredible coincidences, you cannot arrive at any other conclusion in my mind other than that this is a bio-terrorist attack

AMI editor Steve Coz
And speaking on the ABC network's Good Morning America programme, Mr Coz also noted that suspected hijacker Mohammed Atta had lived only a few miles from the company building.

Mr Coz said the FBI was visiting local pharmacies to see if Atta had bought antibiotics used to treat anthrax.

"We know that [Atta] showed up at a pharmacy with red hands. There are people in this area who have a vague recollection of seeing him," he was quoted as saying.

John Ashcroft said on Thursday that authorities suspected foul play.

A third employee, a 35-year-old female worker who has not been identified, also tested positive for the disease.

'Incredible coincidences'

But Mr Coz said the circumstances of the outbreak left little doubt.

Strains of anthrax
Respiratory: Similar beginnings to flu but shock occurs between two and six days later - frequently fatal
Intestinal: Severe food poisoning type symptoms - up to 50% mortality
Cutaneous: Rarely painful skin lesion - fatal in one in 20 cases
"If you just look at the incredible coincidences, you cannot arrive at any other conclusion in my mind other than that this is a bio-terrorist attack," he said.

Mr Coz said Stevens may have inhaled anthrax without even opening the letter. He would not comment on the letter's contents.

Mr Ashcroft said that US authorities had now investigated about 30 or more potential anthrax scares around the country, but that all the rest were all false alarms.

For the second time this week, there was a security alert at the State Department in Washington on Friday.

The daily televised news briefing was interrupted following the discovery of suspicous white powder in the mail room and the area was sealed off. But FBI investigators have determined the substance was not hazardous.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Tommy Thompson, US Health Secretary
"We are going to err on the side of caution"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Investigators are desperate to learn where it came from"
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
explains what anthrax is and the risks it poses
See also:

09 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
09 Oct 01 | Health
FBI pursues anthrax lead
11 Oct 01 | Americas
Third Florida anthrax case
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
UK signs pact against bioterrorism
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
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