DC anthrax alert canceled after follow-up tests

Nov 10, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The US Postal Service (USPS) reopened post offices in the Washington, DC, area last week after further tests dismissed a preliminary finding of anthrax at a Navy mail-handling facility in Washington.

"USPS is pleased to report that samples from the Naval Consolidated Mail Facility in Anacostia have tested negative for anthrax," the Postal Service said in a statement Friday evening, Nov 7. The statement said two of 11 closed facilities would reopen that evening and the rest would reopen Saturday, Nov 8.

Routine air sampling at the mail-sorting building at Anacostia Naval Station indicated possible anthrax Nov 5, USPS officials said. That led to the decision Nov 6 to close the V Street processing center in Washington and 10 neighborhood post offices, all of which fed mail to the Navy facility.

The Navy Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., did follow-up testing of samples from the Naval facility and found no evidence of anthrax, the USPS said.

The closings canceled mail delivery to 250,000 Washington-area customers Nov 7, postal officials said. The Senate and House of Representatives also stopped mail delivery that day, according to a Nov 8 Washington Post report.

The Post said the alert prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to trigger emergency-response plans, causing states to deploy supplies of antibiotics in the Washington area. Health officials readied plans to provide treatment for about 75 workers at each of the closed post offices and for postal customers as well, the report said.

The V Street facility processes government mail, which is irradiated in New Jersey before it is delivered to Washington, according to the Post report.

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