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This informal, on-the-record, press briefing took place in lieu of the regular daily press briefing. No Index was prepared for this briefing. No audio copy will be available.
MR. BOUCHER: An employee who works at our main mail handling facility has tested positive for anthrax.
QUESTION: That's the one in Sterling?
MR. BOUCHER: The facility is called State Annex 32 in Sterling, Virginia.
QUESTION: In Virginia?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Where and how he was exposed is not known. He is currently hospitalized and is being treated. All of our mail handling employees have been placed on antibiotics, ciprofloxacin.
QUESTION: All mail-handling employees?
MR. BOUCHER: Female ones, too. All of our mail handling employees have been placed on antibiotics as of yesterday.
QUESTION: Which is before you knew?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. This main mail handling facility is completely closed. In addition, no Department facilities are accepting mail at this time. Today, we are beginning the testing of all the employees at this facility. Environmental sampling using Center for Disease Control guidelines will be performed at all our mail handling facilities that receive mail from the Brentwood central facility. And the Center for Disease Control is checking this facility at Sterling, Virginia.
QUESTION: What about this building? Is it believed the mail actually came here? If their contamination is there, is there contamination --
MR. BOUCHER: That is why we are going to do environmental sampling at all the main mail handling facilities.
QUESTION: The mail comes from this place to here?
MR. BOUCHER: Comes through this place, gets distributed. But the -- what we are doing is we are checking all the points where we handle this mail.
QUESTION: Skin or inhaled?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: It is a positive blood culture. We don't know how he got it.
QUESTION: Is it a State Department employee or a Postal Service employee?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it is actually a State Department contractor. So it is an employee at our mail handling facility.
QUESTION: It is a positive blood --
MR. BOUCHER: Positive blood culture. So we don't know yet how he got it or where exactly he got it.
QUESTION: Can you say where in Arlington this facility is?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not in Arlington; it's in Sterling, Virginia.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Can you say where?
MR. BOUCHER: Hi, there. We are telling people a State Department employee, an employee at our mail handling facility has anthrax.
QUESTION: Is it the inhaled version or cutaneous?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't know.
QUESTION: When did this person get diagnosed?
MR. BOUCHER: We learned about it today.
QUESTION: Do you know how long they've been sick?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Man or woman?
MR. BOUCHER: Man.
QUESTION: Do you know which hospital?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Are mail facilities --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure -- I don't personally know and I'm not sure when we do whether we will be identifying that.
QUESTION: Are mail facilities in this building being checked?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure. There are six mail handling facilities that are being checked. I have to double check on where their exact locations are.
QUESTION: Six inside the building, possibly?
MR. BOUCHER: Six mail handling facilities for the Department of State that are being checked that have received mail from the Brentwood facility. This one is closed down. All six of them -- the other five are being checked as well.
QUESTION: And you're not sure --
MR. BOUCHER: They are not necessarily in this building. I will have to check their location.
QUESTION: Was this person in the building?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'll run through the points with you. I
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Its just --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, it's a person in our main mail handling facility in Sterling, Virginia, who was tested positive for anthrax. Where and how he was exposed is not known. He is currently hospitalized, being treated.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, where was it?
MR. BOUCHER: Sterling, Virginia.
QUESTION: Sterling, Virginia.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it's out by Dulles.
All of our mail handling employees have been placed on antibiotics as of yesterday.
QUESTION: Do you know how many there are?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can find out.
Are you writing down all the different questions, Sahar, so I can get back to them?
QUESTION: What about the diplomatic bags?
QUESTION: All are on antibiotics?
MR. BOUCHER: This would be included.
This main mail handling facility is completely closed and will be checked by -- is being checked by the Center for Disease Control. In addition, no Department facilities are accepting mail at this time. Today, we are beginning testing of all the employees at that facility and environmental sampling using the Center for Disease Control guidelines will be performed at all our mail handling facilities that have received mail from the Brentwood federal facility. There are six of those, including this one.
QUESTION: Can you say that this building has tested clean for anthrax? Have you been doing daily tests of this building?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't say that.
QUESTION: You don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that.
QUESTION: Have tests been done?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that. We're checking our mail handling facilities. I don't know how many of those six are in this building.
QUESTION: Richard, you said this person -- I'm sorry -- is in the hospital now?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Did you say the diplomatic pouch system has been suspended as well?
MR. BOUCHER: There are two diplomatic pouch systems. One involves mail, and those will be frozen and won't be going out. And then there is classified -- no, that's not stopped. Not as far as I know.
QUESTION: Are you testing people in this building yet?
MR. BOUCHER: We are testing facilities, people at that facility. Mail handling employees, whether they are in this building or in other buildings, have been given cipro. People getting tests are the people at this particular facility.
QUESTION: I am asking whether you have started to test State Department employees in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not in this building. The testing is for the people at Sterling.
QUESTION: Not even the mailroom people in this building? Because that was --
MR. BOUCHER: The mailroom people in this building are all getting cipro.
QUESTION: Without tests?
MR. BOUCHER: Without tests.
QUESTION: Is that because they have traveled to these remote sites? Or is that because you think there may be a threat to them from inside this building?
MR. BOUCHER: That is because they have a tributary relationship with these other facilities.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been tested for anthrax?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. He wouldn't qualify as a mail handler.
QUESTION: No, I know, but --
QUESTION: Like this big hubbub over the President being tested and all that.
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check. But I'm pretty sure the answer is, no.
QUESTION: Is this on the record, by the way?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, this is on the record.
Okay, we will try to follow up and get some more answers on some of these things, okay?
QUESTION: So it was definitely detected at the facility?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: It was just this person that you know of --
MR. BOUCHER: It was found in somebody's blood. We're checking this facility now. We're going to check our other mail -- the CDC is going to check this facility. We're going to check the rest of our mail handling facilities. But so far, we found it in somebody's blood. That's all we --
QUESTION: Just to review things, because -- I'm sorry -- I was running back and forth. Sterling gets its mail from Brentwood?
MR. BOUCHER: Sterling gets its mail from Brentwood.
QUESTION: And the six mail facilities, are any in Main State?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's what I am checking.
QUESTION: You're going to check that. And how soon do you know -- or do you think -- do they tell you will know what kind of a -- skin or inhaled?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know what the science is on that. I haven't checked that with a doctor yet.
QUESTION: Did he report himself?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not exactly sure. He had flu-like symptoms. He went to the hospital. He was tested. The blood culture came back positive. So that would have happened -- I guess he would have gone to the hospital in the last day or so.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Do you know if the mail goes directly from Sterling to the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but, I mean, through other mailrooms, I think.
QUESTION: So it still goes to other mailrooms? It doesn't go directly here?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it may go to other mailrooms in this building. That is what I am trying to find out, get a map of the State Department mail system.
QUESTION: I know, this is --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, so we will get that as soon as we can. Okay, we will get more answers and come back.
Released on October 25, 2001
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