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Connecticut anthrax death baffles investigators
An elderly woman from Oxford, Connecticut died on Nov. 21 from a case of inhalation anthrax. 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren has become the fifth anthrax-related fatality since the beginning of the anthrax scare in the United States.
According to CNN.com, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into how Lundgren may have come in contact with the deadly bacteria. They planned on tracking her Lundgren’s movements during the past month in an attempt to determine how she contracted anthrax.
Lundgren had been taken to the hospital on Nov. 16, suffering from an upper-respiratory tract infection. As her condition only continued to deteriorate, doctors suspected anthrax and preceded to treat her with the appropriate antibiotics.
Hundreds of samples were taken from Lundgren’s home in Oxford to be tested for the anthrax bacteria. According to the Connecticut Post, on Nov. 25 the Department of Public Health reported that samples from Lundgren’s home and Fritz’s Snack Bar, where Lundgren often visited, tested negative. More than 400 nasal passages of postal workers in Seymour and Wallingford, the post offices that serve the area in which Lundgren lived, also tested negative.
As of press time, additional results were still being awaited from Lundgren’s home, the Nu-Look Hair Salon which she frequented, the Immanuel Lutheran Church she attended and the Oxford Public library.
The investigation faced a dead end as the week following Lundgren’s death moved forward. “We’re really not any closer to solving the mystery,” Connecticut Governor John Rowland told CNN. “I would liken it to the 61-year-old woman in New York who contracted anthrax and died, and it’s been a dead end,” continued Rowland.
CNN reports that investigators are mainly focusing on the mail. They suspect that Lundgren may have come into contact with a letter that had a “cross contamination” with the anthrax bacteria. However, there has been no tainted mail found in Lundgren’s home, and there has been no trace of anthrax at the Seymour and Wallingford postal facilities.
“The good news is as we continue to do tests in the postal facilities and at Mrs. Lundgren’s home, we’re finding that there’s no trace of anthrax,” said Rowland. “And I say that’s good news because I was worried about postal employees from two different facilities and we have no one else with any symptoms. The bad news is of course that the mystery continues,” he continued.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, tests of the anthrax bacteria that Lundgren contracted showed that the strain was indistinguishable from the anthrax in the eighteen other cases that have been detected in the United States.
Another possibility cited by Rowland is that Lundgren may have contracted anthrax naturally. CNN’s medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that there could be anthrax that occurs naturally in the area where Lundgren lived.
“It was a little bit confusing as to where she may have contracted anthrax,” said Gupta. “You think it would be a much easier investigaation, given that she did stay pretty close to home and perhaps to her hairdresser, we did hear, from time to time.”
Gupta also pointed out how illnesses occurring before Sept. 11 may have been attributed to unknown infections. He noted the possibility that some of those cases could have been anthrax, and that doctors are starting to go see them more now because they “are looking for them so hard.”
See below for tips on what to do if you suspect you have received a letter containing anthrax. You can also visit www.usps.com for more information.