San Diego Union-Tribune

October 16, 2001

San Diegan tested in anthrax scare
   He was in office when mail opened


WASHINGTON -- San Diego native Tim Mitrovich, who oversees the flow of mail into Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office, was in the room where an apparent anthrax-laced letter was opened yesterday, but initial tests
show he was not infected, family members said.

The letter contained a powdery substance that tested positive for anthrax in two preliminary tests. Mitrovich told family members he was sitting about 10 feet away when another staff member opened the letter.

He is awaiting the results of more tests that will show whether he was infected by the potentially deadly bacteria. As a precaution, Mitrovich is taking antibiotics that are effective in preventing the disease.

Dozens of other people are being similarly treated, including up to 50 Daschle staffers, Capitol police who responded to the call and mail workers who may have handled the letter. The tests take a day or two to complete, the Capitol physician said.

Mitrovich, 36, declined to be interviewed. But family members said he was in good spirits and not overly worried.

"He seemed very upbeat," said La Verle Mitrovich, his mother, who has been visiting her son. "Needless to say, I'm nervous. But I have been since the 11th of September."

His brother, Mark Mitrovich, said Tim was impressed by the quick response of police and medical personnel.

"He felt that part of it went OK," Mark Mitrovich said.

George Mitrovich, Tim's father and president of the San Diego City Club, had more than a passing concern as reports of mailed anthrax multiplied across America last week.

Since Daschle comes from the sparsely populated state of South Dakota, staffers are expected to be very thorough with the mail, George Mitrovich said.

"If (constituents) don't hear back, the senator will hear about that and Tim, in turn, will hear," he said in a telephone interview from San Diego.

George Mitrovich said the incident has reminded him of his own years as a Capitol Hill staffer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Threats of letter bombs being mailed to lawmakers were rife, he said.

"Anthrax is a new form of an old terrorist method," he said.