issued on October 12
Many facilities in communities around the country have received anthrax threat letters. Most were empty envelopes; some have contained powdery substances. The purpose of these guidelines is to recommend procedures for handling such incidents.
First and foremost, DO NOT PANIC!
Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin, swallowed, or inhaled as a fine, aerosalized mist. Disease can be prevented after exposure to the anthrax spores by early treatment with the appropriate antibiotics. Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.
For anthrax to be effective as a covert agent, it must be aerosolized into very small particles. This is difficult to do, and requires a great deal of technical skill and special equipment. If these small particles are inhaled, life-threatening lung infection can occur, but prompt recognition and treatment are effective.
If you have a suspicious unopened letter or package marked with a threatening message such as "Anthrax":
1. Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.
2. Place the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.
3. If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover.
4. Then leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
5. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
6. If you are at home, report the incident to local police. If you are at work, report the incident to local police, and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.
7. List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
If an envelope with powder and powder spills out onto surface:
1. DO NOT try to clean up the powder. Cover the spilled contents immediately (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover!
2. Then leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
3. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
4. If you are at home, report the incident to local police. If you are at work, report the incident to local police, and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.
5. Remove heavily contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag, or some other container that can be sealed. This clothing should be given to the emergency responders for proper handling.
6. Shower with soap and water as soon as possible. Do not use bleach or other disinfectant on your skin.
7. If possible, list all people who were in the room or area, especially those who had actual contact with the powder. Give this list to local public health authorities so that proper instructions can be given for medical follow-up, and to law enforcement officials for further investigation.
A guide to suspicious packages and letters
Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following...
Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
Title, but no name
Misspellings of common words
Oily stains, discolorations or odor
No return address
Lopsided or uneven envelope
Protruding wires or aluminum foil
Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
Shows a city or state in the postmark that does not match the return address.