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February 23, 2002
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CDC Tests: No Anthrax at Army Base

ATLANTA (AP) - An Army spokesman said Saturday that a suspicious package found at the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters building at Fort McPherson did not contain anthrax.

The results on the powder, found in a plastic bag inside the building on Friday, were nearly 99 percent accurate, Sgt. Johnny Beatty said Saturday.

"We need to wait the full 24 hours to be 100 percent sure," Beatty said. The final results were expected Saturday evening from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beatty said the CDC wasn't able to determine precisely what the substance was because the sample was too small.

A field test done Friday had indicated the possible presence of anthrax, but Lisa Swenarski, a CDC spokeswoman, had said those tests often "have a lot of false positives."

The five civilian employees who found the package and two firefighters who responded were showered down because of possible contamination, and the building was locked down with about 200 people inside for about five hours Friday. None of the people involved were given medication for anthrax, Col. Guy Shields said Saturday.

It wasn't immediately clear where the package was found. Shields would only say that the civilians who found it at about 4 p.m. were not mailroom employees.

About 1,000 people work in the building. Joe Handley, a spokesman for the Army Reserve Command, said most of the military personnel have been inoculated with the anthrax vaccine, but not the civilians.

FBI agents were investigating.

The Reserve Command oversees all Army Reserve units in the contiguous United States except for psychological operations and civil affairs units. As part of normal security for the building, everyone has an identification badge and anyone who does not work there must be escorted, Shields said.

"It is a secure building," he said. "We're taking a look at that."

Five people died after anthrax-laced letters were mailed to journalists, politicians and government offices in Florida, New York and Washington last fall. Since then, the military has tightened its mail screening procedures nationwide. The last victim was a Connecticut retiree who died Nov. 21.






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