White powder not anthrax, official says

Saturday, October 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Officials are warning they will prosecute Oklahomans who pull anthrax hoaxes to the fullest extent of the law after two suspicious evelopes were found containing white powder this week.

Powder found in an envelope mailed to a Tulsa accountant's office was not anthrax, said Charles Thigpen, a U.S. postal inspector in Oklahoma City.

He said two investigations into possible hoax mailings were launched in Oklahoma on Thursday.

``Now is not the time to try to get back at someone or play a practical joke, because we are taking these very seriously,'' Thigpen said.

In Tulsa, a worker in an accountant's office received a letter that was leaking white powder. Initial tests indicate it was not anthrax and a final report is expected in three to five days.

Authorities also launched an investigation in another eastern Oklahoma city after an envelope containing white powder was discovered. Preliminary test results were expected Monday.

Thigpen would not identify the town.

Authorities said the two cases are not believed to be connected.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Wayne Allen said the number of calls about suspicious envelopes in Tulsa has declined since the initial days of the anthrax scare. On Tuesday, 25 reports of suspicious envelopes and packages were made in Tulsa, which is an all-time high, Allen said.

The number declined to 15 calls Wednesday, 14 calls Thursday and at least two Friday.

State Health Department officials said the chance of Oklahomans contracting anthrax is slim but not none.

Health Department technicians could find nothing in a number of letters forwarded to them for testing, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Crutcher.