Bioterrorism Scare Becomes International

Article excerpt

Byline: Guy Taylor

Panic over bioterrorism escalated locally, nationally and internationally yesterday as more anthrax scares were reported.

Around the globe, hoaxes and false alarms kept people on edge as government scientists raced to check out peculiar packages and test suspicious powders:

* In Athens, the Greek Health Ministry closed after a pink powder was found in a letter addressed to former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns bearing the message: "Death." The letter was mailed from inside Greece and there was no immediate indication it contained anthrax or posed any health risk, the government said.

* In China, health workers were disinfected after coming into contact with "suspicious substances" enclosed in a letter sent to an American firm, China's Foreign Ministry said. The letter contained publicity about the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.

* In Spain, one person, suspected of sending a letter containing flour to a farm manager, was questioned by police in the northern Zaragoza province and released.

* In Thailand, authorities investigated 16 suspicious letters sent to newspapers, leading companies and a well-known monk, while moving to double the nation's stocks of antibiotics to a four-month supply, officials and reports said.

* In France, 20 persons were hospitalized after suspicious mail was found at the parliament building and also at the post office in the eastern city of Nancy. All were later released and tests on the substances found in the mail were pending.

* In Vienna, an Austrian Airlines jet en route to New Delhi was halted so the 256 passengers and crew members could be tested for anthrax exposure after a passenger found some white powder in her seat, the company said.

* In South Africa, two letters and a parcel containing powder were removed from a house and two businesses near Johannesburg, police said. Forty-one South Africans who were rushed to hospitals after anthrax scares around Cape Town on Wednesday all tested negative, a military spokesman said.

Meanwhile, newsroom and mailroom workers in and around Washington remained on heightened alert after Wednesday's shutdown of part of the Senate Hart Office Building.

The building was evacuated when more than two dozen congressional staffers from the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, tested positive for exposure to anthrax.

Among other scares this week was an e-mail threat to the University of Maryland in College Park Wednesday. …