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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): ANTHRAX ADVISORY

Recently, there have been numerous anthrax scares caused by hoax letters advising the reader (victim) that anthrax was contained within the envelope. Some of these letters were found to contain a form of inert powder (such as baby powder, detergent, or other common household materials) with an accompanying note advising the recipient that he or she had been exposed to anthrax. Other notes have merely contained the written statement advising the reader of the presence of anthrax, although no foreign substance was contained within the envelope. The reaction to these events by WMD first responders has resulted in quarantine, evacuation, decontamination, and chemoprophylaxis efforts. All cases thus far have been hoaxes.

First responders and potential victims should note that Anthrax spores are harmful only if inhaled, ingested, or when introduced into an open wound or the eyes. Persons exposed to anthrax are not contagious and quarantine is thus not appropriate.

All first responders should follow local protocols for hazardous materials incidents involving biological hazards. Upon receipt of a threat, a thorough hazard risk assessment should be conducted. Upon notification, the FBI will coordinate a risk assessment in conjunction with the health department and other authorities on biological agents to ensure timely dissemination of appropriate technical advice.

Any contaminated evidence gathered at the scene should be triple-bagged. Individuals should be advised to await laboratory test results which will be available within 48 hours. These individuals do NOT need to be placed on chemoprophylaxis while awaiting laboratory test results to determine whether an infectious agent was present.

The individual needs to be instructed that if they become ill before laboratory results are available, they should immediately contact their local health department and proceed immediately to a pre-determined emergency department, where they should inform the attending staff of their potential exposure.

Responders can be protected from anthrax spores by donning splash protection, gloves, and a full face respirator with High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters (HEPA) (Level-C) or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) (Level-B). Victims who may be in the immediate area and are potentially contaminated should be decontaminated with soap and water, no bleach solutions are required. A 1:10 dilution of household bleach (i.e., Clorox -5.25% hypochlorite) should only be used if there is confirmation of the agent and an inability to remove the materials through soap and water decontamination. Additionally, the use of bleach decontamination is only recommended after a soap and water decontamination, and should be rinsed off after 10 to 15 minutes. Technical assistance can be immediately provided by contacting the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802.

IMPORTANT:

If the envelope or package remains sealed (not opened), then first responders should not take any action other than notifying the FBI and packaging the evidence. Quarantine, evacuation, decontamination, and chemoprophylaxis efforts are NOT indicated if the envelope or package remains sealed.

Also, anthrax will likely be visible as a powder or powder residue. The absence of visible powder is a strong indicator that anthrax is not present.

The use or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction (including anthrax) is a violation of federal law. See Title 18, United States Code, Section 175 and Section 2332a. It should be reported to the FBI immediately.

This information is provided by the WMD Operations Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Domestic Preparedness Office (NDPO), in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The NDPO was established to coordinate the Federal Government's efforts to prepare the nation's response community for threats involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Contact your local FBI office if confronted by a WMD threat.