Anthrax spores found at more federal agencies in Washington

The number of federal facilities that have tested positive for the presence of anthrax bacteria continued to grow Monday, with the revelation that anthrax spores had been discovered in Washington at State Department headquarters, a building that houses operations of the Department of Health and Human Services, and a facility used by the Food and Drug Administration. On Sunday, federal officials revealed that a small amount of anthrax spores had been discovered at a mail processing facility in Landover, Md. that serves the Justice Department. Also on Monday, the Supreme Court temporarily shifted its operations to a federal courthouse in Washington after evidence of anthrax was discovered at the Supreme Court building. The Office of Personnel Management announced Monday that agencies may excuse employees from work without any loss of pay or charge to annual leave for testing and treatment if the employees have been identified as being at risk for exposure to anthrax or other hazardous agents. Under federal law, agencies can provide services for anthrax testing. In addition, "if an employee not initially entitled to services to test for exposure to anthrax is identified later as having a 'documented exposure' to anthrax or other hazardous agents, he or she will be reimbursed for tests and treatments by the [Labor Department's] Office of Workers' Compensation Programs or the agency," OPM said in an announcement to federal human resources officials. More information is available on the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs Web site. OPM officials also said they had asked health providers under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to "use maximum flexibility" in providing coverage for anthrax treatments. "Health plans will provide coverage for any appropriate prescriptions, including prophylactic treatment, for anthrax," OPM said in its announcement.

In addition to the agencies that tested positive for the presence of anthrax spores over the past two days, traces of anthrax bacteria have been found at two post offices, a State Department mail facility in Sterling, Va., a mail processing center at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, and several House and Senate office buildings.

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