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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
US seeks to calm anthrax fears
Senate workers queuing for tests
Thousands of people have been tested
The new US homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, has tried to calm American jitters over anthrax as two more people were confirmed to be infected with the disease, bringing the total to six.

Mr Ridge, given the new post in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks, said Americans could have confidence their government was "working round the clock to protect them".

Anthrax infection
Two employees of American Media Inc in Florida contracted inhaled anthrax - one died
Assistant at NBC TV in New York has skin anthrax
Baby son of an ABC TV producer in New York has skin anthrax
Woman at CBS TV in New York has skin anthrax
Postal worker in New Jersey has skin anthrax
Anthrax exposure
Six American Media Inc employees
Two lab technicians and a policeman in New York
31 people at the Capitol complex in Washington

He said "thousands and thousands" of people had been tested for anthrax exposure and been shown negative.

FBI director Robert Mueller, appearing alongside Mr Ridge at a press conference, said the US was offering $1m for information on who was behind the scare.

With the government facing criticism for its handling of the anthrax alert, the US postal service is sending cards to every home and business - 147 million addresses - telling people how to deal with suspicious post.

The two latest infections involve an unnamed female New Jersey postal worker and an employee of CBS News in New York, British woman Claire Fletcher. Both tested positive for skin anthrax.

All three major TV networks in New York City, the Capitol Hill complex in Washington and a tabloid newspaper company in Florida have now become sites of anthrax infection.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge
Ridge called for calm

And in the first anthrax mail attacks confirmed outside the US, the Kenyan Government said four people had been exposed to the bacteria from a letter posted from America.

Another letter posted from the US to Argentina was also suspected to be carrying anthrax spores.

US law enforcement officials said there was no evidence linking the anthrax scares with "foreign terrorists", although nothing had been ruled out.

My message to the American public is: remain calm. Be vigilant. Be aware of what you get in the mail

John Potter, Postmaster General

The White House has refused to discard the possibility that the outbreaks of anthrax are the work of Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden.

The US considers Bin Laden the prime suspect in the 11 September suicide attacks on New York and Washington, and has demanded that the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan hand him over.

Successful treatment

The infected postal worker may have caught the disease by handling contaminated letters sent to the NBC TV network and to the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, officials said. Both letters had New Jersey postmarks.

The CBS employee who tested positive for the disease is an assistant to news anchor Dan Rather.

Dan Rather
Rather is the second news anchor targeted

She is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery.

Health authorities and emergency services in New York have complained that they are being swamped by nervous members of the public demanding nasal swabs.

Doctors have been urged not to prescribe the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, used to treat anthrax, without good medical reasons.

Responding to surging demand for the drug, its main manufacturer, Bayer, announced it would treble production.

The US House of Representatives and several Congressional offices have shut down until next Tuesday after a contaminated letter was sent to the Senate majority leader.

The Senate is continuing to work, although 31 employees have tested positive for anthrax exposure.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The FBI is now offering a reward for help"
Professor Harry Smith, Birmingham University
"There's no evidence that this comes from Iraq"
The BBC's Richard Black
explains what makes an anthrax strain weapons-grade
See also:

19 Oct 01 | Americas
Capitol Hill on edge
18 Oct 01 | Americas
Bio-labs face tight security
17 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax: Vehicle for spreading fear
18 Oct 01 | Americas
Senate workers line up for tests
17 Oct 01 | Americas
Using anthrax as a weapon
16 Oct 01 | Americas
Tracking the anthrax spore
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
18 Oct 01 | Africa
Kenya finds anthrax letter
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