Mon, 8 Oct 2001 00:14:11 -0700
Health officials close building where anthrax victim worked
October 8, 2001 Posted: 0603 GMT
BOCA RATON, Florida (CNN) -- State and local health officials on Sunday
closed down the building in which a 63-year-old Florida man who died of
anthrax worked, after a sample from the building and from another
employee showed the presence of the bacterium that causes anthrax.
Authorities closed the American Media Inc. building and the company
voluntarily evacuated employees who were there working Sunday evening,
said a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Emergency Management
Robert Stevens, a photographer for a newspaper with offices in that
building, died Friday of inhalation anthrax. He checked into the JFK
Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida, on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, is
heading the investigation into how Stevens contracted the disease. A
statement from the CDC said that Bacillis anthracis, the bacterium that
causes anthrax, was found in the nasal sample of another man who worked
in the building. The man does not have anthrax, but the presence of the
bacterium shows he has been exposed to the disease.
An environmental sample taken from inside the building has also shown
the presence of Bacillis anthracis, but the results from several other
samples taken will not be available for several days, the CDC statement
The emergency management spokeswoman said the samples included air
The CDC said the current risk of workers or visitors to the building
contracting anthrax is extremely low, but public health officials have
begun to contact personnel who worked in the building since August 1 to
give them preventative antibiotics. Such antibiotics given before the
symptoms of anthrax appear can prevent the disease.
Health officials stressed that the disease is not contagious from one
person to another.
Stevens fell ill after a recent trip to North Carolina, but a Florida
state epidemiologist said he did not believe Stevens contracted the
disease during his trip because the incubation period for anthrax is
between six and 45 days, a period which would not have included his
Anthrax -- considered to be a potential agent for use in biological
warfare -- is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis
and most commonly occurs in cattle, sheep, goats, and other herbivores.
Humans can become infected when they are exposed to infected animals or
tissue from infected animals.