October 12, 2001 - Leesburg Police Department
Threat of Anthrax Prompts Agency to Adopt Procedures For Handling Suspicious Letters and Packages. In light of the recent terrorist activities involving the spread of Anthrax through the U.S. Mail, the Leesburg Police Department has adopted special procedures for reporting and handling suspicious letters and packages. Specific information regarding our policies and procedures is available by contacting the Leesburg Police Department at 352-728-9860. The information provided below was provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Center for Disease Control, the United States Postal Services.
What is Anthrax? Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is very rare in humans and cannot be transmitted from person to person. It can appear in either crystalline or powdery substance that may or may not be seen.
Bacillus anthracis is an age-old bacterium that has caused disease throughout the world for centuries. Infection in humans comes from contact with anthrax infected animals or animal products. The spores are found widely in the soil and are usually contracted by animals that feed on the ground such as cows, sheep and goats. Humans can contract one of three different forms of bacillus anthracis: cutaneous (skin), intestinal and respiratory.
Most commonly, farmers, butchers, veterinarians, and those who sort wool or tan hides risk the greatest exposure. Symptoms may vary depending on exposure but can include cold and flu-like symptoms. Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics but treatment must be initiated early to be effective. If left untreated, Anthrax can be fatal.
What are the characteristics of a suspicious package or letter? The likelihood of receiving a package or letter containing suspicious substances is remote. However, it is important to know what to look for, especially for those who work in government or in the shipping industry. Some indicators include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Mailed from a foreign country
- Excessive postage
- Misspelled words
- Addressed to a title or company position only
- Rigid or bulky packaging
- Badly typed or hand written
- Restrictive markings
- No return address
- Strange odor
- Stains on wrapping
What should I do if I receive a suspicious package in the mail? Most important, use good, common sense and follow the steps provided below:
- Do not handle the mail piece or package suspected of contamination.
- Make sure that damaged or suspicious packages are isolated and the immediate area cordoned off.
- Ensure that all persons who have touched the mail piece wash their hands with soap and water.
- Notify your local law enforcement authorities.
- List all persons who have touched the letter and/or envelope. Include contact information and have this information available for the authorities.
- Place all items worn when in contact with the suspected mail piece in plastic bags and have them available for law enforcement agents.
- As soon as practical, shower with soap and water.
- Notify the Center for Disease Control Emergency Response at 770-488-7100 for answers to any questions.
More information about Anthrax may be found at the Florida Department of Health website .