NBC suffers anthrax scare

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The anxiety building since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks starkly struck
home in the TV business as an NBC News employee was diagnosed with a form of
anthrax after the company received a suspicious letter in the mail.

The woman is reportedly an assistant to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, but her name
and position were not immediately disclosed.

She is afflicted with an
anthrax infection on her skin.

That's less
threatening than the respiratory anthrax that killed a photo editor of
National Enquirer publisher American Media
Inc. in Lantana, Fla., a week earlier.

But the incidents are nevertheless significant because anthrax has been
developed into a biological weapon.

While it's not entirely clear how the anthrax spores were picked up in either
case, the implications are clear: Journalists may not have to go to Kandahar or
Islamabad to find themselves in the line of fire.

The discovery spurred federal and New York City officials to cordon off part
of the third floor of NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center, including the
area where NBC Nightly News
staffers work.

It was not clear at press time how the move would interfere with the
newscast.

Viacom Inc. shut down its mailrooms in all of its facilities across the
country and planned to test some of them for anthrax and other contaminants.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and its Cable News Network unit, as well as
ABC, immediately shut down their mailrooms, and The New York Times'
headquarters was locked down after an envelope containing an unknown white
powder showed up.

'We are absolutely terrified,' a New York-based executive from one network
said.

New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani
said the woman at NBC opened a suspicious letter containing a white powder
Sept. 25 and called security.

The powder was tested and nothing unusual was found.

But a few days later, the woman developed a rash on her arm
and went to a doctor.

He performed a biopsy and the results came back as anthrax.

City officials were notified Friday morning.

'We don't have reports of additional symptoms' from other
staffers, Guiliani said. 'The chances that this is contained are very good.'

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