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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 16:51 GMT
Bush pushes bio-weapons controls
Los Angeles health workers are decontaminated after a false alarm in California
Anthrax spores are being discovered in more locations
US President George W Bush has proposed making it a crime to buy, build or acquire biological weapons for terrorist attacks.

He also recommended that the United Nations should devise a means to investigate suspected biological warfare attacks.

The move - a proposed strengthening of the 1972 UN Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention - appears to be a reversal of policy for the White House, which was reluctant to back international treaties before 11 September.

Anthrax spreads
17 confirmed infections
4 deaths (2 in Washington DC, 1 each in Florida and New York)
6 ill with inhalation anthrax
7 cases skin anthrax
13,300 postal workers taking antibiotics as protective measure
It came as the US Food and Drug Agency announced that four of its mail rooms in Washington had tested positive for anthrax during preliminary tests.

If confirmed, the finding would make the FDA the latest branch of the US Government to be affected by anthrax.

The disease has also been discovered at a mail processing facility in Kansas City, Missouri - the first incidence in the Midwest.

Four deaths

Four people died of the disease in the US last month: a hospital worker in New York, two postal employees in Washington and a journalist in Florida.

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush wants the bio-weapons treaty strengthened
Kathy Nguyen, 61, died early on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Manhattan from inhalation anthrax, the most dangerous form of the disease.

As one of her co-workers was being tested for a suspicious skin lesion, the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, said he had "no progress to report" in finding the culprits.

The latest death came as a senior US official warned of growing concern that extremists may be prepared to use weapons of mass destruction.

John Bolton, the under-secretary of state with responsibility for arms control, said there was a credible threat of some sort of nuclear device being employed.

Confusion over death

Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said it was a "mystery" how Nguyen had contracted anthrax.

She did not work near the buildings in New York that received or processed anthrax-laced mail.

NYC police car parked in front of Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital
The hospital where Nguyen worked was closed
There have now been 17 confirmed cases of anthrax in the US, including 10 cases of inhalation anthrax and seven of the less dangerous skin anthrax.

Most seem to have been the result of spores being sent through the post.

US-based suspects

Investigators now think US-based extremists are behind the attacks, rather than foreign terrorists.

Postal facilities in New Jersey, New York and Washington have also been hit by the bacteria.

Traces of anthrax in several federal buildings have interrupted the work of America's executive, legislative and judicial powers:

  • Traces of anthrax have been found in a mailbag at the US embassy in Lithuania, the first case of its kind in Europe
  • White House mail is in quarantine
  • Congressional offices have been sealed with staff having to work from temporary offices around the city
  • Supreme Court judges are convening elsewhere for the first time in the court building's 66-year history
  • The State Department has cut off mail to 240 embassies and consulates worldwide

See also:

31 Oct 01 | Americas
US steps up nuclear security
30 Oct 01 | Americas
Sitting ducks on NY underground?
27 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax found in Congress offices
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