Two Oklahoma women test negative for anthrax exposure in Washington

Sunday, October 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ Two women from Oklahoma were among those who tested negative for anthrax after the bacteria was found on Capitol Hill last week.

The women, Elizabeth Bartheld of McAlester and Amanda Hill of Wilburton, work for U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins in Washington, D.C.

The women told the McAlester News-Capital & Democrat they were tested because they had been in the U.S. Senate's Hart office building last week. They said they received test results Saturday showing they do not have anthrax.

Bartheld, the congressman's legislative director, and Hill, a legislative assistant, returned to southeastern Oklahoma when the House shut down last week because anthrax was detected at the Capitol.

``I think it's important to calm the fears of people here,'' Bartheld said.

She said she wasn't uneasy as she waited for her test results. ``I have no worries, because no one else has come out as being exposed. Anthrax is curable.''

The 28 people who tested positive for anthrax exposure in Washington include members of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's staff who worked in the Hart building.

Bartheld, a 1993 McAlester High School graduate, and Hill, a 1996 Wilburton High graduate, were in the Hart building last week on separate days to take an elevator to an underground trolley.

The Oklahoma women said the worst part of their experience was waiting in line for hours to be tested and the actual test.

``They stuck a Q-tip as far up your nose as it would go, in both nostrils,'' Bartheld said. ``They said it would make your eyes water and it did.''

Both women said they were not shocked they had to be tested.

``I was a little more surprised, not alarmed,'' Hill said. ``That goes to show that in that town, you never know what's going to happen next.''

While awaiting her test results, Bartheld said she was given a three-day supply of Cipro as a precaution.

Hill said the atmosphere in Washington is different now.

``There are police on every corner,'' she said. ``You never can tell what to expect in D.C.''

The women plan to return to Washington on Monday. Congress is scheduled to go back to work Tuesday.

``You've got to go on living,'' Bartheld said.