THE DAY I FOUND I’D BEEN EXPOSED TO ANTHRAX

By David Wright

“Your blood test is positive — you’ve been exposed to anthrax.”

Stunned, I pushed back in my chair, watched intently across a conference table by an FBI agent, a senior Florida detective and two doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three days earlier I’d wept at a memorial service for longtime friend Bob Stevens, who died from anthrax. Now a nice young woman doctor from the CDC was telling me, as gently as she could, that anthrax had touched me, too.

“Your body has somehow ‘seen’ anthrax,” she explained. “We know that because there are antibodies in your blood that are doing their job and fighting it.”

I searched my mind for anything that could explain why this had happened to me.

I suddenly remembered I’d gone into Bob’s office on the day he died — with the sad task of interviewing one of his colleagues for an obituary story.

Could I possibly have “seen” anthrax during that 15-minute chat?

After Bob’s death, our office in Boca Raton, Fla., was sealed by the FBI. Like all my colleagues at American Media, I lined up for a nasal swab, antibiotics and blood test.

And in a temporary office I helped put out The ENQUIRER, working with a briefcase, a cell phone and an electronic organizer balanced on a windowsill because there were no desks or chairs.

The CDC doctor, Carolyn Greene, and her colleague Dr. Pratima Raghunathan patiently answered every question I had. I was one of five AMI employees whose blood tests showed they had been exposed to anthrax.

The doctors told me I was in no danger. I wasn’t infectious. I had to continue to take the antibiotic Cipro, which I’d been swallowing twice a day for nearly a week, for a full 60 days.

And I’d be enlisted in the CDC’s detective work. Follow-up blood tests would hopefully pinpoint the day I was exposed.

As FBI agent Rita Hessel showed me out, my head still reeling and my heart pounding, I was greeted by a colleague sitting in the waiting room. I knew the shock he was in for.

When we compared notes later, we shared a delicious moment of black humor.

He’s a superb journalist and he and I have covered disasters around the world together. A gas explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico . . . a mudslide in Colombia, where 30,000 people died and we spent harrowing days stepping over the bloated bodies . . . the Mexico City earthquake, where 10,000 people died.

Somehow we’d come back unscathed every time.

Now we were two victims — in sedate Boca Raton, Fla!

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