WASHINGTON -- Congress is struggling to edge away from one of the strangest periods in its history, but new, almost daily discoveries of anthrax spores are keeping Capitol Hill in a state of angst.
The three newest incidents were in the offices of congressmen on the opposite side of the U.S. Capitol from where anthrax first appeared in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Oct. 15.
Anthrax spores have now turned up at a total of 11 locations on Capitol Hill, already on high alert from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when one of four hijacked airliners aiming possibly at the dome of the Capitol itself crashed in Pennsylvania.
Tests confirmed Friday that anthrax spores were in the offices of Reps. John E. Baldacci, D-Maine; Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Mike Pence, R-Ind., on the sixth and seventh floors of the Longworth House Office Building, said Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols.
Earlier Friday, officials disclosed that anthrax also had been found in the Supreme Court building, situated between Longworth and the Hart Senate Office Building contaminated by the letter mailed there to Daschle.
"We are not concerned about a significant health risk," Dr. John Eisold, the Capitol physician, said of the spores found in the three House members' offices.
Nonetheless, Holt said he was advising everyone on his staff as well as any visitors to his office on the sixth floor of the Longworth building to start taking antibiotics.
From the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an ever-growing array of police officers and security barricades on its grounds have changed the face of a pre-eminent symbol of democracy. Along with the exclusion of tourists, the Capitol has acquired the feel of a fort under siege.
Police dogs are tested for anthrax, senators debate how to disinfect their offices and lawmakers' mail -- their lifeblood -- hasn't flowed for two weeks.
By Friday, officials had succeeded in reopening four of the six major buildings housing lawmakers' offices -- Hart and Longworth remain closed indefinitely -- only to learn later that spores had been discovered for the first time in offices of House members.
Confusion, conflicting information and rumor are a daily staple for aides, reporters and lawmakers trying to learn about the latest anthrax discoveries or when shuttered office buildings might reopen.
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