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(Compiled from various sources including the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Philadelphia Division of Disease Control)

How to Handle an Anthrax Threat

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.

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 (cuts, scratches, or open sores)... swallowed... or inhaled as a fine 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.

How to identify suspicious packages and letters:

Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include...

  • Excessive postage                                   
  • Title, but no name                              
  • Misspellings of common words              
  • Labeling such as “ANTHRAX”                
  • Strange odor                                                 
  • Excessive weight                                         
  • Protruding wires                                           
  • 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 which does not match the return address
  • Ticking sound or other strange sounds
  • Bulky or hard objects apparently contained within the envelope
  • Incorrect titles for people who work there 
  • Handwritten or poorly-typed addresses
  • Oily stains or discoloration
  • Rattling or sloshing when you shake it
  • No return address
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Protruding aluminum foil

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