ANTHRAX GU Employees Treated for Possible Anthrax Exposure By Liz McDonald Hoya Staff Writer

Charles Nailen/The Hoya A Georgetown postal service worker sorts mail in gloves provided by her department.

At the recommendation of university officials, approximately 35 Georgetown mailroom employees have been treated with antibiotics for possible exposure to anthrax.

Because Washington’s Brent-wood mail center is a clearinghouse for almost all mail delivered in the District, including mail addressed to the Law Center and Main Campus, all university mail service employees who work in the Alexandria, Va., processing site and in the Law Center mailroom were advised Oct. 23 that they should be treated with prophylactic antibiotic treatment.

After two Brentwood employees died of pulmonary anthrax and two others were hospitalized with pulmonary anthrax last week, District health officials urged all employees at secondary sites to take precautionary antibiotics.

According to Bryant, no employees have indicated any symptoms of an anthrax infection, but one part-time employee has quit because of the possible threat.

Although District health officials did not specifically urge Georgetown employees to receive treatment, Margie Bryant, head of auxiliary services, said the university advised all employees who worked in the Alexandria processing site and in the Law Center mailroom to receive treatment.

“We didn’t want to take any chances,” Bryant said. “We’re talking every day with the United States Postal Service – we want to make sure that all the folks out there are treated.”

At-risk university employees were given a 7-day sample and a 53-day prescription for doxycycline, the generic form of the brand-name antibiotic Cipro, said Georgetown University Hospital Spokesman Jim Welsh. Two recent federal reports have indicated that the two antibiotics are equally effective.

“From the outset, doxycycline has fewer side affects,” Welsh said.

“We tried to make sure that every mail employee was treated as quickly and as effectively as possible,” Welsh said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez emphasized that several university employees had previously gone to the Brentwood site to pick up bulk mail.

Meanwhile, hospital officials have been in constant contact with the D.C. Department of Health, Center for Disease Control and the other District hospitals about handling anthrax infections and preparing for possible bioterrorist attacks.

“Because of our relationship with the Medical Center and the Hospital, we consider ourselves to be one or two steps ahead,” Welsh said. “[These events] have helped us develop a structure we didn’t have before.”

Georgetown’s campuses have been tested for the presence of anthrax, and officials expect the results by today, Assistant Vice President for Communications Julie Green Bataille said. According to a statement on the university’s Web site, public health officials have said Georgetown is at low risk for exposure to anthrax or other biological agents.

On campus, the Department of Public Safety continues to implement increased security measures, especially in regards to suspicious packages.

“We’ve increased our presence at all events,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez instructed individuals who receive suspicious packages to remain calm.

“Get everyone out of the room, close the door and call DPS – if anything suspicious arrives, DPS should get the first call,” Gonzalez said. “Everything is being taken seriously; we would be wasting our time on pranks and jokes.”

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