Mail Handling

If You Receive Suspicious Mail
  • Do not panic.
  • If you are at home, then report the incident to local police. Dial 911.
  • If you are at work, then report the incident to local police. Dial 911 and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.
How Anthrax Organisms Affect Individuals
  • Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin (open sores or cuts), 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.
  • For anthrax to be effective as a covert agent, it must be aerosolized into very small particles. If these small particles are inhaled, life-threatening lung infection can occur, but prompt recognition and treatment are effective.
Identifying Threats
These are recommended steps to take when identifying suspicious, unopened letters or packages marked with 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 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, trashcan, 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. List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized.
  7. Give this list to both local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:
  • Excessive postage
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Excessive weight
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect titles
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
  • Misspellings of common words
  • No return address
  • Oily stains, discolorations or odor
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Shows a city or state in the postmark that does not match the return address
  • Ticking sound
  • Title, but no name
  • Visual distractions
Keep in mind that there have been hundreds of hoaxes across the country during the past couple of years, so if you find yourself in this situation, allow your experienced local health and law enforcement authorities to provide guidance as to whether you should take any other precautions to protect your health and safety.