Md. sites to be tested for anthrax rise to 29

Employees are offered free antibiotic supply

War On Terrorism

Anthrax Scare

October 26, 2001|By Jonathan Bor and Heather Dewar | Jonathan Bor and Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Maryland officials expanded to 29 yesterday the number of workplaces in the state that are to be tested for possible anthrax contamination, while offering their employees free 10-day supplies of antibiotics as a precaution.

The work sites - seven of them in Baltimore and most of them mail handling facilities for private businesses - asked for state help because they receive mail from the Brentwood postal-processing center in Washington, where several workers are believed to have contracted anthrax, said Mike Morrill, spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

A specially equipped team from the Pennsylvania National Guard, trained in biological and chemical weapons response, arrived in Maryland yesterday to test mailrooms around the state.

Michael Sharon, chief of the Maryland Department of the Environment's emergency response division, said that unlike any of Maryland's hazardous materials teams, the National Guard unit from Fort Indiantown Gap near Harrisburg, Pa., can do a field test that gives quick, though not definitive, readings on anthrax spores. The guardsmen tested four companies yesterday, and all the instant results were negative, Sharon said. Seven companies are scheduled for testing today.

One of the businesses tested was First Union Bank's mail sorting center in Columbia, with 200 employees. No diagnoses of anthrax have been made in employees, she said.

Also inspected was a SunTrust mail-processing facility in Glen Burnie, where preliminary results showed no signs of anthrax contamination, said Anne Arundel County health officer Frances B. Phillips.

Local health departments set up clinics where employees of the private companies could receive preventive antibiotics. About 130 employees of First Union received medications at the Howard County Health Department, while more than 150 - most from SunTrust - picked up medications in Annapolis.

In Baltimore, about a dozen employees from Bank of America received Cipro or other antibiotics at a public building at Druid Hill Park. Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, city health commissioner, said he expected several hundred from Bank of America and Allfirst Bank mailrooms to arrive at clinics today.Environmental testing at the two sites was to begin today, he said.

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Johnathon E. Briggs, Larry Carson, Michael Dresser, Tom Pelton, Mike Scarcella and Diana Sugg contributed to this article.

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