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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 20:28 GMT
Germany's anthrax 'false alarm'
Greek firefighters in bioterrorism exercise
Anthrax false alarms have occurred across Europe
Research at Germany's national centre for disease control in Berlin suggests that earlier positive anthrax tests on three suspicious packages were false alarms, the country's health minister has said.

One suspicious package was received by a labour office in Rudolstadt in the eastern state of Thuringia, while two more were discovered in the town of Neumuenster in the far northern region of Schleswig-Holstein.

Preliminary tests at the scenes had indicated that they contained anthrax.

Postal workers
Postal workers in Germany are wearing gloves as a precaution
But Health Minister Ulla Schmidt told a news conference at Berlin's Robert Koch Institute that tests carried out there indicated the reverse.

"There were no indications of anthrax detected in the objects found in Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein," she said.

"The preliminary results here are quite reliable. The final results will be made available on Saturday."

The German post office had closed two sorting offices following the earlier tests.

On Thursday Lithuania became the first European country to report the discovery of anthrax spores, in a US embassy postbag.

Last month, a number of letters containing a mysterious white powder were discovered in Germany, but all turned out to be hoaxes.

In a separate development, the German health authority, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, said on Friday it had approved a wide spectrum antibiotic, Ciprobay, as a treatment for anthrax.

The drug, made by the German firm, Bayer, has already been approved for use as an anthrax treatment in the US, but Germany is the first European country to give it the all-clear.

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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"People are very relieved here indeed"
See also:

01 Nov 01 | Europe
Anthrax in Lithuania US embassy
10 Oct 01 | Europe
German 'bioscare' false alarm
16 Oct 01 | Europe
Anthrax alerts across Europe
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