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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 19:47 GMT
US 'hopeful' anthrax scare over
Ridge in the White House
Mr Ridge admits the FBI do not know who is behind the attacks
Tom Ridge, the US Homeland Security Director, has told journalists he is "hopeful" the anthrax outbreak is over.

"I am hopeful, like the rest of America, that the anthrax has stopped permanently...We certainly haven't seen or detected any other sources of new anthrax," he said.

But he admitted the US authorities have so far been unable to discover who is responsible for the anthrax attacks, which have killed four people in the past month.

Test for anthrax
A quick test for anthrax has been made available

"We have not ruled out whether this was the act of an individual, or a collective act, whether it was a domestic source or a foreign source," Mr Ridge added.

"Hopefully one of these days we'll be able to answer both questions. Today we're not."

Three of the deaths have been traced to handling contaminated mail, but the fourth, that of a New York hospital worker, remains unexplained.

Thirteen other cases of the disease have been reported, most of them among people who handled mail addressed to media or government offices.

US postal worker
Postal workers are wearing masks and gloves

Mr Ridge said the investigation was being pursued "aggressively", but gave no new information.

He said the US would remain on the alert for more attacks "indefinitely".

Earlier, the US authorities said tests carried out on suspected anthrax traces in the US consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore had proved negative.

The suspect sample was sent back to the US for testing on Monday night, but this had conclusively proved the substance was not anthrax.

Anthrax has been confirmed at three US overseas missions - in the Peruvian capital, Lima, in Vilnius, Lithuania and Yekaterinburg in Russia - since the discovery of spores in several State Department mailrooms on 29 October.

Smallpox vaccinations

Meanwhile, about 140 US health officials have been vaccinated against smallpox, amid warnings that it could also be used as a biological weapon.

Anthrax spreads
17 confirmed infections
4 deaths (1 in Florida, 2 in Washington DC, 1 in New York)
6 ill with inhalation anthrax
7 cases of skin anthrax
13,300 postal workers taking antibiotics as protective measure
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the US had to be on its guard against possible attacks using the highly contagious smallpox virus.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the US had to be on its guard against possible attacks using the highly contagious smallpox virus.

Technically eradicated in 1979, the smallpox virus can easily be passed from person to person.

See also:

04 Nov 01 | Americas
Anthrax cases baffle investigators
01 Nov 01 | Americas
Anthrax kills fourth American
31 Oct 01 | Americas
Cost of anthrax attacks 'surges'
27 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax found in Congress offices
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