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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 00:18 GMT
Anthrax alert spreads to Chile
Laboratory technicians at Russell Senate Office Building, which was decontaminated after a suspicious letter was found
US Senate buildings shut down due to an anthrax scare
The authorities in Chile say they have found anthrax spores in a letter sent from abroad to a private business in the capital, Santiago.

Health Minister Michelle Bachelet said 13 people who had been exposed to the bacteria were prescribed antibiotics, but none had shown any signs of the disease, which has killed four people in the United States.

Health Minister Michelle Bachelet
Bachelet: The 13 people who were exposed are on antibiotics
If further tests confirm the results, it will be the first case detected in Chile.

Last month anthrax spores were discovered at two American overseas missions - in Peru and Lithuania - but they turned out to be false alarms, as were similar discoveries in other countries.

Over the weekend, US authorities closed two large Senate buildings after the discovery of a letter believed to contain anthrax.

The suspect letter, addressed to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was dated 9 October and postmarked from Trenton, New Jersey - the same as an anthrax-contaminated letter sent to Senate leader Tom Daschle.

Suspicious postmark

It is not known who is behind the anthrax scares.

One report in Chile said the envelope, discovered last week, had been postmarked in Florida but carried a Swiss postage stamp. Another report said that the letter had a European postmark but a US return address.

Ms Bachelet said tests by the country's Public Health Institute had confirmed the presence of anthrax.

"Based on new technology we've incorporated for the testing, it was determined that, indeed, anthrax spores were present," she said.

A sample is now being tested by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

See also:

11 Nov 01 | Americas
Anthrax found in more Senate offices
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
30 Oct 01 | Americas
Q&A: The anthrax mystery
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