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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Anthrax alerts in Asia
Decontamination unit workers are sprayed by a colleague, Malaysia
Malaysia has been taking precautions
Fears of anthrax have continued to spark emergency alerts across Asia.

So far, none of the scares have been confirmed to have involved anthrax but authorities throughout the region have been taking the threat very seriously

Security is especially tight for at this year's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meetings, which US President George Bush is attending.

The host, China, has stepped up mail sorting security and is checking for anthrax at its borders.

State television said postal services were on the alert for anything containing white powder.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said on Thursday that two suspicious letters were being investigated. One was sent to an unnamed employee of an American firm, and staff who had come into contact with the letter were being disinfected.

"Focus has been given to questionable mails such as those express mails which do not clearly state what the contents are," said a customs official in Shanghai, where the world leaders are gathering.

Some courier companies in the city have temporarily banned the delivery of medicine to China from abroad.

In Malaysia, the foreign ministry said that a letter sent to a Microsoft office in the US state of Nevada suspected to contain anthrax had been a false alarm. Six people exposed to the letter tested negative, and final laboratory tests showed the letter was not contaminated.

Australia has been through a series of scares in the last few days. On Thursday, part of the national parliament was evacuated for five hours after an employee of Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock opened a package that contained white powder. Later tests showed the package was clear from anthrax.

In Japan, there was similar alarm when the prime minister's office, the US consulate general in Osaka, and the Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun newspapers received suspicious letters full of white powder. A letter sent to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's official residence on Wednesday was found to contain starch.

Talcum powder found in a toilet at the British Council in Singapore raised fears on Tuesday. Taking no chances, fire trucks and hazardous materials workers were called in before the building, which is next to the US embassy, was given the all clear.

In Thailand, officials reassured villagers in Napha, 17km (45 miles) east of Bangkok, that granules found on their roof were probably a chemical compound used to seed clouds to make rain.

And in the Philippines two promotional letters backfired when they caused anthrax scares. One contained a soap sample and the other was an advert from The Economist magazine, was designed to look like an office memo addressed to the receiver as well as international figures including President Bush and Bill Gates.

The magazine's Asia-Pacific circulation manager Peter Bakker has halted the ad campaign and apologised for the "alarm" caused.

See also:

16 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia hit by anthrax scares
15 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia requests anthrax attack evidence
14 Oct 01 | Americas
NY urged not to panic over anthrax
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
09 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
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