Thursday, October 18, 2001

Anthrax Case at CBS News

The following is from
An employee in CBS anchor Dan Rather's office has the skin form of anthrax and is expected to fully recover, officials said Thursday. It's the third confirmed case in New York City and is the same, less lethal type of infection contracted by an aide to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and the infant son of an ABC producer. "Our biggest problem today is not anthrax. Our biggest problem is fear," Rather said at an afternoon press conference. "We are resolute, we will not flinch. ... We will put out a first class evening news broadcast this evening." He said he has not been tested for anthrax exposure and has "no plans at this moment to be tested."

ABC spokesman Todd Polkes said that because the NBC and CBS news anchors had apparently been targeted, "extra precautions are being taken" with mail addressed to ABC News anchor Peter Jennings. Five infected people in the United States have been found among the thousands of people tested so far, and a sixth possible infection is being evaluated, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Thursday in Washington.

The CBS employee was being treated with antibiotics and was expected to fully recover, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said. "In fact, she feels fine," he said. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said she apparently began to experience swelling on Oct. 1. It was not immediately known how she became infected. Because the woman handled mail, investigators believe the anthrax was delivered in an envelope, city officials said. Giuliani said no one else at CBS had showed anthrax symptoms, and Health Commissioner Neal Cohen said there were no public health concerns at the West 57th Street building, known as the CBS Broadcast Center.

The CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street also houses the studios and offices of WCBS 880 and CBS 2. Officials said environmental tests of the mailroom at CBS News headquarters were being analyzed, and testing would now move beyond the mailroom, but the building had not been evacuated. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city Health Department entered the building Thursday morning without protective suits. Workers will be questioned to determine whether they should be tested, Giuliani said.

"You know how they say 'close to home?' It's no longer close. It's home," said Ray McNally, a stagehand for the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather." Maria Spinella, a broadcast associate at CBS News Productions, said, "Given the events that have been going on at NBC and ABC, I don't think people were shocked. I feel bad for the assistant who opened the letter, but everything that we've heard is that she's being treated and she's expected to recover."

CBS News president Andrew Heyward issued the following statement Thursday morning: "We learned this morning that a CBS News employee in Dan Rather's office has tested positive for the cutaneous form of anthrax. She is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery; in fact, she feels fine. As you know, anthrax is not contagious, and this is the most easily curable form of the disease. I have already talked to the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, and the New York City Health Department. The Health Department and other investigators will be back in the Broadcast Center this morning to interview employees who work in the same vicinity and to determine what the next steps should be. We have been informed by New York City Health Commissioner that it is safe to continue working while this investigation gets underway. Obviously we will take all necessary precautions to ensure your safety."

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