After several weeks thankfully free of new anthrax developments, another case has emerged. An elderly Connecticut woman died Wednesday from a case of inhalation anthrax. Ottilie Lundgren, who is 94 years old, was admitted to Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut last Wednesday with pneumonia. She spent the week in critical condition. The FBI and state police are now conducting a criminal investigation.
A resident of the small town of Oxford, in southwestern Connecticut, Lundgren was virtually housebound, a fact that has authorities extremely puzzled as to how she might have come in contact with the bacteria. Lundgren's local post office has tested negative for the spores, and relatives report the elderly woman rarely left her home except occasionally when her niece would drive her to church.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]State health officials conducted five separate tests, all of which came back positive, and definitive tests at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta confirmed the diagnosis Wednesday.
A government microbiologist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press the letter sent to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy contained "billions" of anthrax spores. It generally takes 8,000 to 10,000 spores to infect someone with the inhaled form of the disease.
Wednesday, Department of Education officials confirmed trace amounts of "low-level" anthrax were found in the agency's mailroom.
Monday, after a month hiatus, Washington, D.C. postal workers began delivering mail to government offices. By Tuesday evening, two Senate office buildings were closed again after trace amounts of anthrax were found in the offices of Democratic Senators Christopher Dodd and Edward Kennedy. Officials say the bacteria presents no health threat.
Investigators believe the bacteria came from a tainted letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat. The Leahy letter, still unopened, has tested positive for lethal amounts of anthrax, and appears to be identical to the tainted letter delivered to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. It was uncovered in one of 280 barrels of correspondence that have been quarantined from lawmakers since the initial outbreak. One month after the first traces of anthrax were found, the Hart office building, which houses Daschleís office, is still shuttered.
Investigators hope the Leahy letter, which remains sealed, will yield important clues to the instigator of the anthrax attacks.
The New York City subway system has been tested and declared free of anthrax, according to city health officials. The tests were ordered after 61-year-old Kathy Nguyen died from inhaled anthrax. The Bronx residentís death has stumped law enforcement officers and epidemiologists alike; investigators have been trying, without much luck, to trace the path of the deadly bacteria.
Officials with the Federal Trade Commission are warning about 40 websites to stop touting theoretical cures and treatments for anthrax and smallpox. The sitesí owners have a week to respond to the FTC letters before authorities begin levying fines or banning site operators from future web enterprises.