Possible Ricin Find Closes Senate Offices
Charles Dasey, a spokesman at Fort Detrick, Md., said scientists there were doing a "confirmatory" test on the substance. The test is "higher reliability" but will take longer, he said.
In Connecticut, meanwhile, a postal worker found an unidentified powder leaking out of an envelope addressed to the Republican National Committee, and inspectors were trying to identify it. The powder was found late Monday at the Wallingford postal sorting center, the same facility where anthrax spores were found in 2001.
A clue to ricin poisoning is a suddenly developed fever, cough and excess fluid in the lungs, a fact sheet from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. These symptoms could be followed by severe breathing problems and possibly death, the CDC said. There is no known antidote.
Twice as deadly as cobra venom, ricin, which is derived from the castor bean plant, is relatively easily made and can be inhaled, ingested or injected.
Gainer said they were still investigating how the powder got into the mailroom.
The Homeland Security Department was monitoring the situation, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. An FBI official said the agency was awaiting a final test from a laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., before deciding whether to get more fully involved in the case.
Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota was majority leader in 2001 when deadly anthrax was found in letters sent to his office and the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in the Hart Senate Office Building. No one was ever arrested in those incidents.
Hundreds of Capitol workers, reporters and tourists who were in the Hart building lined up for tests and doses of Cipro and other antibiotics after the anthrax attack. Areas of that building were closed for months for decontamination.
Bob Stevenson, a spokesman for Frist, said the closure of the Senate office buildings Tuesday was "to facilitate collection and removal of unopened mail."
Stevenson said Capitol tours were being suspended, Senate restaurants closed and Senate pages given the day off. But he said essential Capitol employees were expected to report to work as usual.
The House was scheduled to convene at 12:30 p.m.
Frist gave no indication that extra security had been ordered for the Capitol complex, although security in the area has been high since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Mail to congressional offices has been irradiated since the 2001 anthrax attack, but Frist said radiation is unlikely to have an effect on ricin.
In October, a package containing ricin was found at a postal facility serving Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina.
On the Net:
Senate site: http://www.senate.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facts about ricin: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp
© 2004 The Associated Press