Anthrax Scare in Egypt Dismissed as ‘Bad Joke’

Published October 17th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

An American Express employee in Cairo was given a clean bill of health after receiving a letter containing a white powder amid a worldwide anthrax scare, an Egyptian Health Ministry official said overnight. 

The package had undergone tests which revealed no traces of any harmful substances, the official was quoted as saying by the state-run MENA news agency, cited by AFP. 

The building where the American Express Giza branch is located was evacuated on Tuesday after the Egyptian woman, who received a letter containing the powder from company offices in London, contacted the police. 

"We think it could be a bad joke," a colleague had told AFP. 

A similar “bad joke” in the Israeli paper, Maariv, Tuesday prompted authorities to evacuate the building amid anticipation that Israel could be a target of a biowar. 

The Egyptian ministry official later said all packages tested for harmful substances in the past two days, including the one received by American Express, had revealed no traces of the bacteria, and that the woman was well. 

Egyptians were exchanging email text messages warning each other not to open their mail after hearing reports of the scare at American Express, according to the agency. 

As anthrax infection cases continue to make headlines in the US, countries from Finland to Australia have been gripped by a string of hoaxes and panic in connection with the deadly poison. 

In the US, the FBI said it had received more than 2,300 reports of suspected anthrax contamination since October 1, with most of these proving to be false, according to the San Diego Daily –

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