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Fayetteville Hotel Employees, Guests Given Cipro As Precaution

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FAYETTEVILLE, NC — Firefighters and Haz-Mat crews wrapped up their investigation Friday night at the StudioPlus Deluxe Studios, where a sealed container found in one ofthe hotel's restrooms tested positive for anthrax.

Haz-Mat teams did an initial test on the container, which was foundaround 9:30 a.m. by an employee, who then brought it to his manager.

It is unclear whether the initial test on the substance was negative, orwhether it was invalid due to an error. Haz-Mat workers did two more screenings of the substance, though, and both of those field tests came back positive for anthrax.

"The screening for positive is only about 20-30 percent accurate," says Fayetteville public information officerJason Brady, "but we're not taking any chances."

WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask says the field tests the crews probably used are sensitive,but not specific. The tests will react to lots of different bacteria, and is not designed to respond to any particular strain.

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In contrast, the test being done on the material in the state lab is very specific.That test involves a culture. Scientists take the substance, place it in a petrie dish,grow it, and then examine the results. Those results are nearly 100 percent accurate and are expected within 72 hours.

Until those tests results are available, no one can be sure whether the substancewas anthrax, so the 20 hotel employees and guests were taken Friday afternoonto the Honeycutt Recreation Center, where they were quarantined for more than three hours and then given four days' worth of Cipro, an antibiotic used to fight anthrax.

The health department also collected their names, phone numbers, and medical histories.

The visitors and workers were returned to the hotel, but will have to get the OK from authorities before they can collect their belongings. They will be put up in a local hotel whileStudioPlus remains closed for the weekend, with its ventilation system turned off.

Firefighters in protective suits searched the hotel for evidence, includingone of the guest rooms. Theroom was registered to some people of Middle Eastern descent, and officials are not saying whether those customers were possible targets ofan attack or suspects.

Police officers and sniffing dogs searched the cars in the parking lot, as well.

Fayetteville police will be guarding the hotel around-the-clock until the test results come back.

Officials say even if the container did contain anthrax, it is not contagious and there is no cause for Fayetteville residents to panic.

Fayetteville leaders say any residents who have concerns about the incident should call the city's helpline, CareLink, at (910) 609-5465.


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