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Procedures for Responding to Envelopes or Packages of Suspicious or Unknown Origin

KDHE Division of Health

Procedures for Responding to
Envelopes or Packages of Suspicious or Unknown Origin

Many facilities in communities around the country are dealing with concerns about bioterrorism threat letters and suspicious envelopes or packages, with particular concerns about anthrax. The purpose of these guidelines is to recommend procedures for handling packages of concern.

Guideline Number 1: Don’t Overreact.

Anthrax can cause illness in several ways: skin infection, gastrointestinal infection, or inhalation (lung) infection. To cause illness, the organism must be rubbed into skin that is cut or abraded, swallowed, or inhaled as a fine mist. It is not contagious from one person to another; in other words, you can’t “catch it” from someone else. Soap kills anthrax on the skin. All forms of anthrax disease are generally treatable with antibiotics.

For anthrax to cause lung infection, it must be aerosolized (that is, spread in the air) in very small particles (about 1/10,000th of an inch, smaller than a red blood cell). Producing particles this small is very difficult, and usually requires a great deal of technical skill and special equipment. When handling or opening mail, attention to the procedures below should help protect against anthrax infection. In the event an exposure does occur, it is important to obtain medical attention so antibiotics can be started promptly.

Guideline Number 2: Use Common Sense with Unsolicited or Suspicions Packages;

It is never wise to smell or sniff substances of unknown origin.

Following are some step-by-step procedures to follow in various situations:

UNOPENED LETTER OR PACKAGE, OR LETTER THAT APPEARS EMPTY – NO THREAT MESSAGE OR VISIBLE POWDER;

If you receive a letter, package, or other item that is not accompanied by a threat or not leaking powder, the risk of anthrax or harm from another biological agent is small. If you receive a package that concerns you that has no threat attached and no leaking powder, notify your supervisor and contact the State Capitol Police. If the object appears to match the State Capitol Police guidelines, then follow the instructions in those guidelines. If the object does not match the guidelines, but you and your supervisor still have concerns, then it is probably best to just dispose of the object. To dispose of the object, use the following procedure:

PACKAGE MARKED WITH OR CONTAINING THREATENING MESSAGE SUCH AS "ANTHRAX":

OPEN ENVELOPE OR PACKAGE WITH POWDER, OR POWDER SPILLS OUT ONTO SURFACE OR UNOPENED LETTER OR PACKAGE:

OPENING PACKAGE OR LETTER PRODUCES A CLOUD OF DUST OR A SMALL EXPLOSION, OR THE LETTER STATES “ANTHRAX IN HEATING OR AC SYSTEM”:

Contact Numbers

Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Epidemiology 24 hour-a-day toll-free number 1-877-427-7317
State Capitol Police, Troop K, Kansas Highway Patrol, duty officer 785-296-4169
Kansas Highway Patrol, 24 hour duty officer 785-827-4437
Kansas Division of Emergency Management, 24 hour duty officer 785-296-3176
Division of Facilities Management, Department of Administration 785-296-4142

For further information, contact the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention at the 24 hour response number: 1-800-427-7317.

 

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Page last modified on: June 29, 2012