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America Strikes Back: Anthrax Scare

Aired October 15, 2001 - 14:11   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Jason Carroll has been working the anthrax side of the investigation in New York. He's outside, looks like 30 Rockefeller Center to me, the home of NBC News. Jason, what have you been able to uncover today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that three people who were investigating the anthrax scare here at NBC, Aaron, were exposed to anthrax spores: a police officer who came in contact with the letter, as well as two lab technicians who also handled the letter were exposed to a small number of spores. But that does not mean, according to health officials, that they were infected with the disease. And that's because they say in order for someone to become infected with the disease you would have to be exposed to thousands of spores. And once again, these few people were only exposed to a few spores.

Also developments coming to us out of Hamilton, New Jersey, earlier today, just within the hour. Just to recap what happened there, a letter, the letter in question, which was postmarked on September 18th, was actual postmarked from Trenton, New Jersey. But that letter was processed at the mail center in Hamilton, New Jersey, which is nearby.

The letter was addressed to Tom Brokaw, and postal officials there in Hamilton just a short while ago say that two employees who worked at that facility are showing flulike symptoms, but that does not mean that they were infected with anthrax. They are taking antibiotics just as a precautionary measure. They also are telling us that the outside of the letter, the one that was dated on September 18th, tested negative for anthrax. But there is still one more test to go.

The only one confirmed case that we have so far, Aaron, of someone being infected with anthrax is Tom Brokaw's assistant. She was infected with the cutaneous form of the disease. It's a skin infection, and it is easily treatable with antibiotics.

Right now, we are awaiting a press conference from New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He is expected to update us on the situation. He's expected to talk about security in the city. That press conference is expected within the hour. If there's any information that comes out of it, Aaron, we will bring it to you.

BROWN: Thank you, Jason. I -- we make the distinction between people who have been infected with or contracted and people who have been exposed to, and that's a different set of numbers. I was writing notes and looked up, and I thought I saw someone going into the Rockefeller Center building with a mask on. Did I actually see that?

CARROLL: Aaron, I was focused on the camera, so I wouldn't be able to tell you if something like that happened behind me.


CARROLL: But we can check on it for you.

BROWN: Well, yeah, no, we'll just look at the tape again here. Thank you. I appreciate that. I mean, it just -- that tells you something about -- is this the shot? OK, I just thought -- just stay with it for a second. I may very well have been wrong about this. I just looked up very quickly. Right there. Maybe yes, maybe no. A Walkman. OK.

Well, I guess we're all jumpy, including me. Thank you for looking at it again.

The other anthrax issue is out in Nevada, a letter that went to a Microsoft subsidiary. James Hattori is in Carson City, Nevada for us this afternoon. What are you able to report, James?

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, right now we are awaiting word from the Centers for Disease Control as to the strain or the identity of the anthrax that was detected in that letter that was sent to Microsoft.

CNN's Rhonda Rowland has been told those tests are complete. She's stationed at the CDC in Atlanta. However, we are expecting that Governor Kenny Guinn here in Nevada is going to get a call, getting those results, and as soon as that happens, he will pass those results out to the public in the very near future.

Meantime, it was an anxious morning for all the folks at Microsoft as they returned to work. We've been told now that all six people who came in contact or close proximity with that anthrax- contaminated letter in Reno have tested negative. The results of the last two individuals were completed this morning.

Still, as you say, it was an anxious time, and even though they've been told at a briefing this morning and previous briefings that the stress -- rather the risk to public health is very low, Microsoft employees are understandably on edge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. It's crazy. Nuts. It was a little wild. You know, my family is a little worried and everything. But like I reiterated to them, I wasn't in direct contact with anything in the mail room. So I really don't think I have anything to worry about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HATTORI: Now, we must stress that what makes this case different is that there was no powdery anthrax. That means that the chances of airborne transmission are very low. And of course, as we've all come to know, Aaron, you especially, that the airborne transmission is the most dangerous form of transmission, usually fatal -- Aaron.

BROWN: Again, and one other difference in the Microsoft case, the Microsoft letter went -- came from Malaysia, right? So there's some indication that it was sent back to Malaysia and then came back. Is that what happened?

HATTORI: It initially started in Reno. It was a check they sent to a vendor in Malaysia. It was returned. The check was there as well. And when they opened it, they also found some clippings from a pornographic magazine. One of those pictures, one of five, was contaminated with anthrax. And it seemed to be embedded into the -- the paper itself as opposed to being free-flowing or airborne. So, that's what's giving health officials here some confidence that the risk is very low.

BROWN: Yes. James, thank you. That's one of those good news/bad news things. And the good news is the risk is lower. The bad news is you don't necessarily know it's there.

We're all struggling to deal with this now. What's your opinion? Would you accept mail delivery or restrictions on mail delivery because of this anthrax scare? It's our quick vote question. Not surprisingly, at least not surprisingly to me, people's initial reaction is yes, they would. In fact, a lot of us are dealing with restrictions on our mail. If you'd like to cast your vote, you may do so. Go to, look for the quick vote link. AOL users, the key word is CNN.

Right now, as we say, more than 70 percent, 72 percent say yes. We remind you that these polls are not scientific. But I'll tell you, it's hard to imagine that a scientific poll would come up with numbers that were opposite of that these days. It's a very edgy country. And we're all dealing, we're starting to deal with anthrax, something we've learned a lot about in the last couple of days -- we certainly don't know a lot about it in our experience. We're all learning this together.




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