How to Handle Anthrax and Other Biological Agent Threats

These are tips obtained from the government health department to provide guidance concerning the handling of suspicious letters and packages which could be tainted with anthrax or other biological agents. If it makes you feel more secure you may wear protective gloves and a protective mask when opening your mail. Designate one person in the house to handle the mail and PLEASE KEEP YOUR KIDS AWAY FROM THE MAIL AS YOU WOULD WITH YOUR REGULAR MEDICINE CABINET.

To help prevent personal injury, take the following precautions when opening mail:

Examine unopened envelopes for foreign bodies or powders
Use a letter opener to open mail; do not use your hands
Do not open a suspicious envelope, package, or container, if there is doubt  as to its contents.
Do not cut or pull string or tap on the item.
Do not jar or shake the item.
Do not handle the item unnecessarily.
Do not place the item close to heat, flame, or flammable gas.
Do not smoke near the item.
Do not immerse the item in water.

General Precautions for Mail Handling:

Types of suspect mail:

Excessive postage, no postage, or non-canceled postage
No return address or fictitious return address
Improper spelling of addressee names, titles, or locations
Unexpected envelopes from foreign countries
Suspicious or threatening messages written on packages
Postmark showing different location than return address
Distorted handwriting or cut and paste lettering
Unprofessionally wrapped packages or excessive use of tape, strings, etc.
Packages marked as Fragile - - Handle with Care, Rush - - Do Not Delay, Personal or Confidential
Rigid, uneven, irregular or lopsided packages
Packages that are discolored, oily, or have an unusual odor
Packages with soft spots, bulges or excessive weight
Protruding wires or aluminum foil

If you receive a suspicious package:

Do Not Open the Package
Immediately Report the incident to your local authority

For opened packages which contain suspicious materials:

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, aerosolized 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.

Do not shake or empty the contents of the suspicious package

Place the package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent the leakage of contents.  If no container is readily available, cover the package or envelope with anything available (eg, trash can, clothing, paper) and do not remove the cover Isolate the package and close off the room by shutting all doors and windows

Leave the immediate area Keep others from entering the area.
Do not touch your eyes, nose, or any other part of your body.
Wash hands vigorously with soap and water.
Make a list of all people who had contact with the package
If possible, close down the building ventilation system.
If clothing is heavily contaminated, do not brush vigorously

Be safe. 


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