Anthrax has been found in a letter from Malaysia to an employee at the Microsoft Licensing office in Reno, Nev., Nevada State officials said Saturday. The letter included a check Microsoft had sent to a vendor in Malaysia and pornographic magazine clippings.
The envelope had remained unopened for a week in the office of the employee to whom it was addressed while she was away, according to Dan Leach, a Microsoft spokesman. When the employee returned, she opened the envelope and found the check and the pornography, which appeared to have been moistened and dried.
State authorities tested the envelope's contents after being contacted by Microsoft. The contents underwent three rounds of tests for anthrax. The first test produced a "presumptively positive" result, but a second test conflicted with a "presumptively negative" result. However, a third test on Saturday located an anthrax strain, though it is unclear if it is a disease-carrying or vaccine strain, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn says.
A sample of the strain has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for DNA testing to see if it is a strain that could transmit the disease, or if it is a vaccine strain that could not infect people, Guinn says.
This is the first case of anthrax being sent by mail that has occurred at a non-media company. Eight employees of American Media in Boca Raton, Fla., have been exposed to anthrax, one of whom died. And one employee of NBC in New York has been infected, with another exhibiting symptoms consistent with exposure.
Microsoft Licensing in Reno employs roughly 100 people. Five employees and one relative of an employee have been exposed to the anthrax, according to Microsoft. A handful of employees are being tested, the company says.
Microsoft says it is taking the situation very seriously and working close with law enforcement officials. The company has been in frequent communication with employees and is awaiting the results of further employee testing. As of now, none of the employees exposed are exhibiting symptoms, and all have received medical attention.
A spokeswoman for the company was not sure how many vendors Microsoft has in Malaysia.
This recent news comes on the heels of Microsoft's Asian Fusion 2001 Expo held Oct. 11 to Oct. 13 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is the third such show and is the largest Asian gathering of Microsoft partners, including Microsoft certified solution providers, global partners, independent software vendors, ASPs and resellers.
Microsoft says it is donating funds raised at the Asia Fusion Microsoft Store to charity in an effort to help those affected by the recent U.S. tragedy.
Microsoft Asia has more than 3,000 employees in 20 locations. Asia is the fastest-growing region for Microsoft and accounted for approximately 20 percent of its total revenue in fiscal 2001.
In the Oct. 15 Utusan Express, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad says some people are trying to sour relations between Malaysia and the United States through actions such as misinterpreting remarks he made criticizing the air strikes against Afghanistan. Dr Mahathir says Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, is not anti-America but only disagrees with the manner in which the United States is retaliating against Afghanistan.
Dr Mahathir will speak on the effects on the country's economy, politics and security following the terrorist attacks on the United States, and the retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan on Malaysian TV Monday. It is unclear if he will comment on the letter to Microsoft.
Additional reporting by Reuters