State, federal disease experts confer on Md. botulism case

War On Terrorism

Anthrax Scare

November 01, 2001

State health authorities said yesterday they are working with federal disease experts to investigate a Maryland botulism case.

Officials said that a patient was hospitalized, but provided no other details of the case.

Botulism is a dangerous bacterial infection that can occur in the digestive tract, lungs or through broken skin. About 100 cases occur annually in the United States, according to Dr. John G. Bartlett, chief of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School, of Medicine.

Because of its toxicity, naturally occurring botulinum toxin is often mentioned as a potential biological weapon. "But we don't believe at this point there is any link" between this case and terrorism, said Arlene Stephenson, state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene deputy secretary for public health services.

Also in Maryland:

The results of final anthrax tests conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the U.S. Postal Service's Express Mail facility near Baltimore-Washington International Airport were negative, and health officials told its 280 postal workers to stop taking antibiotics. The center's retail and mailbox areas will reopen today. The center was closed Oct. 21 after an employee who also worked in the contaminated Brentwood mail center in Washington was hospitalized with anthrax.

Anthrax test results were negative for 15 of 22 private mailrooms in Maryland tested because they received mail directly from Brentwood. Results from the other seven mailrooms were pending.

Environmental tests for anthrax on three sorting floors at Baltimore's Fayette Street post office were conducted early yesterday morning. Results are due in three to seven days.

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