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Medication, Not Legislation, Order of Business on Capitol Hill

Whatever the source, whatever the motive for sending anthrax to Senator Tom Daschle, the result was clear today. Nurses were in a Capitol corridor handing out anthrax test kits to hundreds of Senate staffers. A makeshift clinic was set up to dispense medical advice in what is normally a room for congressional hearings.

Being tested along with the staffers, a dozen of their bosses including Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. "I've already taken one Cipro pill. I'll take one more pill sometime today--two pills a day," he said.

The tests were ordered and 12 Senate offices, an entire wing of one Senate office building, were closed after authorities told senators that overnight tests showed that the substance found in the letter sent to Senator Daschle yesterday was "a very refined, pure strain of anthrax."

"To insure that we don't have spores that have somehow filtered through that part of the building, through the ventilation system, we're going to conduct extensive testing today," said Dan Nichols of the US Capitol Police.

Even though police stressed it was all done just as a precaution, it gave many here the jitters. Still, staffers took it in good humor.

"I came here to learn politics, but I'm learning about bioterrorism," said one staffer.

"It's anxiety inducing but I'm glad they're doing it, because we don't know the level of exposure yet," said another.

So far no one here has shown any symptoms of anthrax. What worries senators is that the refined strain of the bacteria sent to Daschle suggests this is not the work of amateurs.

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