HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Investigators have found the first indication that an elderly woman who mysteriously died from inhaled anthrax could have been exposed to spores sent through the mail.
Traces of the bacteria were found Friday in a letter in Seymour, about three miles from Ottilie Lundgren's home, prompting the governor to suggest that the 94-year-old victim may have been exposed by mail.
Gov. John Rowland said no direct connection had been made between the letter and Lundgren's death Nov. 21. But Rowland said her mail -- like the Seymour envelope -- may have been contaminated by contact with anthrax-laden letters sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy in Washington.
"I don't think that anyone suspects that Mrs. Lundgren was a target," he said. "We all believe, again unscientifically because it's not proven, that she was a victim of cross-contamination."
The Seymour letter was one of 300 tracked by postal inspectors who used records of fluorescent orange bar codes to find mail that passed through a sorting machine seconds after the spore-laden letters to the senators. Postal officials believe both Washington letters and the Seymour letter were processed Oct. 9 at the Hamilton facility near Trenton, N.J.
The rest of the hundreds of letters were destined for addresses all over the United States, said Jon Steele, Northeast vice president for the Postal Service. Postal officials said they have alerted health and law enforcement officials in the areas where the letters were sent, and know of no related health problems.
"If there was a problem with cross contamination to the point of being dangerous to someone's health, it would have shown up by now," said U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Mihalko. He said bar codes on the letters contain the addresses of the intended recipients, but no decision has been made about contacting them.
The Hamilton facility, which has been closed since Oct. 18, also handled anthrax-tainted letters sent to news organizations in New York. About 800,000 undelivered pieces of mail have been irradiated to protect against anthrax and were to begin moving out on Saturday.
Rowland said it was possible that thousands of pieces of mail have "second- or third-generation" contamination from letters that moved through New Jersey at the same time as the Daschle and Leahy letters "but not enough to harm anyone or make anyone sick."
"It's more dangerous to cross the street than it is to open your mail," Rowland said.
Authorities did not disclose details about the Seymour letter's postmark or address, but John Farkas of Seymour said he received the letter at his home.
"All our daughters are fine. All the people who visited our house are fine," he told WICC-AM of Bridgeport. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with us."
Other Seymour residents said they were worried.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.