Malaysia vows full weight of the law in anthrax probe
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – The government on Sunday pledged to bring ”the full weight of the law” against anyone shown to be involved in a letter sent from Malaysia to a Microsoft office in Reno that was found to be contaminated with anthrax.
Final test results show four of the six people exposed to a potentially deadly form of anthrax in a Reno office have tested negative, Washoe County health officials reported Sunday.
Preliminary test results show the two others exposed to an anthrax-contaminated letter from Malaysia sent to a Microsoft office have also tested negative for inhalant or airborne anthrax. Five Microsoft employees and a family member were exposed.
The final results of those nasal swab tests won’t be known until today, Washoe County health officer Barbara Hunt.
A third test on pornographic pictures in a letter sent from Malaysia to the office tested positive for anthrax, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said Saturday.
State officials have sent the pictures to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further testing, Guinn said.
Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said that Malaysian officials were ”shocked and deeply disturbed” over the matter. He said the government had appealed to the FBI for all relevant information about the case.
”At this time, we have not been able to confirm that the … letter did indeed originate from Malaysia, or that it was not tampered with in the United States itself,” Syed Hamid said in a statement.
Syed Hamid said it was ”highly unlikely” that any groups linked to terrorism in Malaysia had access to biological strains such as the anthrax bacteria. He did not identify which groups he meant.
”As a matter of policy, the government … will extend its fullest support and cooperation to the U.S. authorities,” Syed Hamid said. ”We will not hesitate to use the full weight of the law against anyone found to be involved in such dangerous and malicious acts.”
Health Minister Chua Jui Meng said that the government would hold a meeting of Malaysian laboratory officials, clinicians and veterinarians sometime this week as a ”precautionary measure.”
”Just because the Americans are having a problem there, we want to respond by making sure that we are ready, even though there is no occurrence (of anthrax) in this country,” Chua told reporters.
Officials at Microsoft Licensing Inc. in Reno contacted U.S. health officials Wednesday over an employee’s suspicions about a returned envelope, mailed earlier to a vendor in Malaysia.
Health officials said four Microsoft employees handled the letter, and a fifth worker and one member of an employee’s family also may have handled it. Nasal specimens were taken from all six, and test results were expected Sunday.
At least eight people are confirmed to have been exposed to anthrax in the United States since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.
Anthrax is caused by spores of Bacillus anthraces, the anthrax bacteria that are mainly a livestock disease. The infection is hard to diagnose and difficult to cure once symptoms start.
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