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Posted October 30, 2001 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Anthrax case unsettles postal customers

By Kevin Killen

The news that a Winchester man is being treated for inhalation anthrax has left some Northern Shenandoah Valley residents unsettled, but still willing to visit their mailboxes.

"It's scary, and to think, it's not that far away," said Rose Mary Busch, who currently lives in Sterling, but is moving to the valley. "When you think about it, it makes you really think."
Busch, who works for a travel agency, also said that while she is not that concerned about handling her own mail, she is more careful with new cases of the disease turning up almost daily.

"I really feel for the postal workers the most," she said.

The Winchester man stricken with anthrax works at a U.S. State Department mail facility in Sterling. The 59-year old man was still in serious but stable condition, hospital spokesman Wes Williams said late Monday.

The man's exposure to anthrax is presumed to have come from handling contaminated mail, he said.

Busch's daughter, Winchester resident Kim Wanser, echoed her mother sentiments.

With four children, Wanser said she fears mail going into the schools.

"You never know about anthrax," she said. "If some tainted letter were to go to schools, what could happen?"

Like her mother, Wanser said she doesn't fear opening her own mail, but is more "cautious" than before.

"I make sure all the addresses check out first before opening them," Wanser said.
Three deaths have been attributed to anthrax, including two postal workers in the Brentwood post office in Washington, D.C.

It was discovered Monday that a New Jersey woman also has contracted the skin form of anthrax, bringing the number of diagnosed cases to 15.

Even though the Winchester man did not contract the bacteria in the area, Sterling is too close for comfort for some local residents.

"I was scared when I first heard about the man here in Winchester," said Winchester native Tammy Russell. "Even though he didn't get the bacteria here, it's just down the road."

Russell also said that she isn't afraid to handle her mail. She and other residents say the U.S. government has done a good job in handling the anthrax incidents.

"The government is doing the best that they can do with what they have," Russell said. "They have a tough job trying to control anthrax, but they are doing it well."
The Department of Justice and FBI are conducting an intense investigation into the anthrax-laced letters and health officials are the testing postal workers in many parts of the country.

Still, government officials have said that, other than testing, there is no "foolproof" way to detect anthrax.

Postal workers have been urged to take preventive antibiotics, such as Cipro and doxycyline. CDC officials said that Cipro is usually the best antibiotic to keep anthrax from spreading.

While many residents are fearful that anthrax could be coming to the area, Billy Germelman, a Winchester resident and executive director of the Winchester Child-Parent Exchange Center, said the media blitz has been negative.

"The television media has been whipping everyone into a frenzy about anthrax," he said.
Germelman, like Russell, believes that officials are doing "a great job" fighting the anthrax scare.

City resident Robert W. Williams said he has "great concern" about anthrax and thinks the government acted "slowly" at first, but has done a good job since.

"I think the Brentwood cases caught them off guard, and it took them a while to get on track," he said. "But since then, I think they have done a good job."

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