Anthrax Spreads as Officials Work to Ease Fears

Health officials in Florida, Nevada, and New York are continuing to test people for anthrax. So far, only two confirmed cases of the deadly bacteria have been identified. But another ten people have shown evidence of contact with the substance and those numbers could grow. Our national correspondent Jon Frankel has more on the story.



Over the weekend, New York City officials responded to more than 100 calls about suspicious packages and powders. People are clearly nervous, especially at NBC headquarters--the only place in this city where anthrax was discovered.



Throughout the weekend, people in New York and other parts of the country have been reminded that anthrax is not contagious, but the anxiety and alarm seem to be.



Three more New Yorkers, a detective and two lab technicians who handled contaminated letters at NBC, have been exposed to anthrax spores. Now, a total of five people have been exposed. But only one, an assistant to Tom Brokaw, has developed the disease, and she is responding to treatment.



"We've seen over 600 colleagues. They've been screened, they've been tested, they've been treated," says Andrew Lack, NBC News president.



Stil,l New Yorkers are on edge.



Mayor Rudy Giuliani says, "A balance has to be struck here between sufficient precautions and making people so frightened and so upset they're not going to be able to conduct their lives."



There are five more cases of possible exposure in Boca Raton, Florida, at the American Media building. One employee there died from anthrax, and Stephanie Dailey was exposed to the bacteria.



"I was first--you know--shocked that it was positive, but I was like, 'Okay, what do we do now? What procedure I need to do now?' And I just keep taking the Cipro, and I'll be okay," says Dailey.



In Reno, Nevada, Microsoft received a contaminated letter from Malaysia. Six employees there have been tested.



Barbara Hunt, Washoe County, Nevada, health officer, says, "None have symptoms and thus far none have shown test results indicating they were exposed."



At the New York Times, Judith Miller recieved a letter containing a powder substance that tested negative.



"Every one of these false letters--hoaxes--has to be responded to as if it were the real thing," says Miller.



After a weekend of false alarms, John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, promised aggressive prosecution for anyone maliciously fanning the fear.



"This is not a joking matter. This is a matter of seriousness and our resources should not be disrupted and diverted because individuals think this is an opportunity to do something that . . . is very damaging and shouldn't be done," says Ashcroft.




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