Oxford Case Defeats High Hopes
The dozen or so pieces the 94 year old widow got weekly were placed in specific folders on a small mahogany desk in the living room of her tidy Edgewood Road home. Bills that were to be taken care of by her niece, Shirley Davis, went into one folder, charity solicitations went into another, and junk mail if it wasn’t tossed into a wastebasket went into a third.
Optimistic that they might finally get to the bottom of how Lundgren was exposed to the anthrax spores that killed her on Nov. 21, investigators tested 25 pieces of the mail, some dating to September.
But in what would develop into a discouraging theme, the tests turned up nothing. And so, after 550 negative tests of everything from pill bottles to a dead cat found in the neighborhood, investigators from the FBI and Centers for Disease Control left town assuming that the culprit was the mail but not knowing for sure.
Our investigation has told us a lot of things that it wasn’t,” said Dr. Paul Mead, the CDC’s lead investigator on the Lundgren case, and leaves us with the main hypothesis that she got anthrax through cross contaminate Skechers Boots d mail.”
It is a disappointment for investigators, who initially had high hopes that the elderly woman’s orderly routine, and limited contact with the world beyond her modest ranch, would allow them to quickly determine how she became infected.
Instead, the Lundgren case has raised serious questions about how many spores it takes to fatally infect someone, and whether they can settle in one space, such as in a post office, for an undetermined amount of time before again being stirred up into the air.
For her friends and family, how Lundgren, whose big trip for the week was to the hair salon on Saturday mornings or the local snack bar for lunch, could have died of anthrax remains a frightening mystery.
All I can think, is, she was old and had asthma and respiratory problems, and she was that one person unlucky enough to get it and her system couldn’t fight it,” Davis said.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying that investigators didn’t find any anthrax in Lundgren’s home.
Almost all of the pictures she kept on a table in her living room including her wedding photo and an old picture of Lundgren and her sister were sent for specialized testing at a laboratory in Texas. Investigators tested almost all her clothes, Skechers Boots her favorite wool jacket, a blanket she kept on the couch Skechers Boots and vacuum cleaner bags.
One day, they brought three leaf blowers into the house and left them running for over a half hour. They then set up petridishes all over the house, hoping to no avail that anthrax spores blown through the air would land in the dishes and start growing.
Outside her home, investigators went to unusual lengths to rule out the possibility, however remote, that she contracted anthrax naturally or was targeted for some reason.
Some neighbors remembered Lundgren having a little garden in her backyard, so soil samples were taken and tested. Other soil samples were taken from around one of Lundgren’s favorite haunts, Fritz’s Snack Bar, after some old timers thought they recalled an anthrax outbreak among cattle years ago at the site. Samples at both places were negative.
CDC officials also visited farms and veterinarians in the area to see if there had been any cases of large animals, particularly cattle, dying in the weeks around Lundgren’s Skechers Boots death there were none. They also tested a dead cat found in her neighborhood, theorizing that it could have gotten anthrax either naturally or from Lundgren feeding it.
They asked me if there had been anything unusual and all we came up with was the cat,” said Reverdy Munson, who operates the Oxford Veterinary Hospital, the only one in town. I think they were just trying to cover all their bases.”
Investigators also considered the theory that the 94 year old woman was somehow targeted. But the CDC’s Mead said the fact that not one anthrax spore was found in her house makes that scenario unlikely.
If there was a widespread release of anthrax, we would have found a sample of it at someplace she went,” he said. Nothing stood out.
The only similarity is they both received mail, and that’s something they have in common with everybody in this country,” Mead said.