Media hit again as fourth anthrax case reported in New York

NEW YORK -- A New York Post employee who opens letters to the editor has skin anthrax, the fourth infection to hit a New York news media organization in a week, authorities said Friday.

The victim, Johanna Huden, 30, is an assistant to Editorial Page Editor Bob McManus, who said she had recovered and was working Friday.

Post employees continued working on Saturday's edition, for which Huden was writing a first-person account, said Richard Johnson, editor of the Page Six gossip column.

"I was sort of expecting this for a week," Johnson said. "I figured, why would they leave us out if they got the networks?"

All four of the city's anthrax cases involve the news media. An assistant to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, an assistant to CBS anchor Dan Rather and the 7-month-old son of an ABC News employee who visited ABC News headquarters are being treated for skin infections. The germ was also found in the Manhattan office of Gov. George Pataki.

The source of the anthrax has been a mystery, though authorities believe the NBC case was caused by a contaminated letter mailed to Brokaw from New Jersey last month. Officials at the other networks have said they suspect the anthrax arrived in the mail.

A city Health Department memo distributed to Post employees said their colleague "may have been infected while opening the mail." Post Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said Huden doesn't recall opening any suspicious packages.

Also Friday, The New York Times said a preliminary test by Brazilian authorities found "bacteria or spores consistent with anthrax" in a letter to the newspaper's bureau in Rio de Janeiro. The letter was mailed Oct. 5 from New York and received Oct. 16. It had no return address.

Four employees are taking antibiotics as a precaution, the Times said. Brazil's Health Ministry said it was awaiting test results on the unopened letter.

Huden's case dates to Sept. 22 -- about the same time as the other infections -- and no one else in the News Corp. building on Sixth Avenue near 48th Street has shown symptoms since.

"Authorities have assured us there is no danger" in the building, Publisher Ken Chandler said.

Columnist Andrea Peyser said Post staffers understand a lot about anthrax. "There's no panic, there really isn't," she said.

The tabloid's feel for wordplay was evident on an electronic news ticker outside the building: "Post traumatic stress? -- fourth city anthrax case hits New York Post."

As he has for the past seven days, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani emphasized that New York's anthrax cases were isolated and treatable.

"At this point, there's no reason for anyone to be overly alarmed," the mayor said. "We have four people who have contracted anthrax; four people are cured."

Huden noticed a blister on a finger Sept. 22. When the blister became infected, she was treated with antibiotics, but after the discovery of anthrax at NBC last week, she was tested for anthrax. Early tests were negative but a positive test came back Thursday night.

The Post said it had tightened security and mail-handling procedures in the past week.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service spokeswoman Pat McGovern said some 100 employees who may have had contact with the Brokaw letter will be tested as a precaution. Union leaders had accused management of failing to keep workers informed and had requested broader testing.


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