Anthrax and Biological Threats - What To Do

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 (released by the Centers for Disease Control October 12, 2001) is to recommend procedures for handling such incidents. You may want to print these guidelines and keep them handy.

DO NOT PANIC

1. 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.

2. 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 receive 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 any 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 (i.e., keep others away).

5. WASH your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.

6. What to do next...

  • If you are at HOME, then report the incident to local police.
  • If you are at WORK, then 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 you receive an envelope with powder and powder spills out onto surface:

1. DO NOT try to CLEAN UP the powder. COVER the spilled contents immediately with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover!

2. Then LEAVE the room and CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).

3. WASH your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.

4. What to do next...

  • If you are at HOME, then report the incident to local police.
  • If you are at WORK, then 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 bag 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 both the local public health authorities so that proper instructions can be given for medical follow-up, and to law enforcement officials for further investigation.

If there is a question of room contamination by aerosolization:

For example: small device triggered, warning that air handling system is contaminated, or warning that a biological agent released in a public space.

1. Turn off local fans or ventilation units in the area.

2. LEAVE area immediately.

3. CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).

4. What to do next...

  • If you are at HOME, then dial "911" to report the incident to local police and the local FBI field office.
  • If you are at WORK, then dial "911" to report the incident to local police and the local FBI field office, and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!