Federal officials in Washington are offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the person or persons behind the anthrax scare in the United States. A total of six people have so far been infected with anthrax out of thousands of people tested in several locations around the United States.
The reward offer for information on the anthrax cases came from FBI Director Robert Mueller and Postmaster General John Potter who advised Americans to remain vigilant about what they receive through the mail. "Don't let other people touch it, don't shake it, don't taste it, don't sniff it," he warned. "I mean, these are very common sense things that we are asking the American public to do and then we are asking them to call law enforcement."
Along with the reward offer came another warning from Attorney General John Ashcroft to those behind an increasing number of anthrax hoaxes around the country. "People who use this time in our country as an opportunity to compound the concern of Americans through hoaxes will pay a serious price," he said.
The latest hoax case involved a man in Rhode Island who sent talcum powder through the mail but claimed it was anthrax.
As for the anthrax investigation case itself, the latest confirmed infection involves a woman who works for CBS television news anchorman Dan Rather in New York. Previous cases include two in Florida, one at NBC News in New York, and the infant son of an ABC News producer in New York.
The nation's top doctor, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, says the government is increasing the amount of antibiotics on hand to treat anthrax infections given the continuing threat. "We now have enough to serve two million people for up to 60 days, which is what is recommended if one has been exposed to anthrax," he said. "We have now taken steps to expand that so that we can, in fact, serve at least 12 million people with ciproflaxicin to 60 days."
Doctor Satcher was one of several federal officials who spoke at a news conference in Washington organized by the new Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
Mr. Ridge and other administration officials are making a concerted effort to calm the public in the wake of the anthrax attacks. "To show you that on a daily basis, on an hourly basis every single day, there is communication and collaboration between all agencies of government," he said. "And we are not just focused exclusively on anthrax, I assure you."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate resumed work Thursday even though the House of Representatives decided to shut down for a few days in the wake of the anthrax threat.
Tests confirmed that several people in one of the Senate office buildings were exposed to anthrax after a suspicious letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was opened by one of his staff aides.