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Mail Package Handling Information

November 9, 2001

Interim Guidelines
For Minimizing Risk From Cutaneous And Inhalation Anthrax
For Mail Handlers (Non-Operators) In Mail Room Facilities With High Speed Handling Machines

This document provides interim recommendations for workers involved in mail sorting, distribution and handling in state, county and local public facilities.

A program to reduce skin or respiratory exposures to B. anthracis spores may decrease the risk of anthrax disease in mail handlers. These interim recommendations are based on the limited information available on ways to avoid infection and the effectiveness of various prevention strategies. These recommendations will be updated as new information becomes available.

A rank order of measures will be used to control potential exposures to B. anthracis. These include, starting with the highest rank order, engineering controls to capture B. anthracis spores at potential points of release, housekeeping measures to reduce the spread of B. anthracis spores and personal protective equipment to prevent worker exposure.

Engineering Controls

  • Management is evaluating the feasibility of installing engineering controls such as HEPA-filtered exhaust hoods or enclosures for high-speed mail handling equipment and for other areas where dust is generated by processing mail.

Housekeeping Controls

  • Housekeeping measures reduce the spread of B. anthracis spores and personal protective equipment to prevent worker exposure. Areas should be wet-cleaned and/or vacuumed with HEPA filter equipped vacuum cleaners. Do not dry sweep or dust.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


  • Protective gloves will be available to all workers handling mail (e.g., envelopes and packages).

  • Different gloves or layers of gloves may be needed depending on the task, the dexterity required and the type of protection needed. In some cases, workers may need to wear cotton gloves under impermeable gloves for comfort and to prevent dermatitis. Skin rashes and other dermatological conditions are a potential hazard of wearing gloves.

  • Gloves will be provided in a range of sizes to ensure proper fit.

  • The choice of glove material (e.g., powder-free nitrile or vinyl) will be based on safety, fit, durability and comfort.

  • Latex gloves should Not be worn because of the risk of developing skin sensitivity or allergy.

  • Care must be taken to avoid touching skin, eyes, or other mucous membranes since contaminated gloves may transfer B. anthracis spores to other body sites.

  • Gloves should be discarded if they are visibly torn or damaged.

  • Long-sleeved clothing should be worn to protect exposed skin and gloves should be pulled over the ends of the sleeves.

  • Hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and water when gloves are removed, before eating and when replacing torn or worn gloves. Soap and water will wash away most spores that my have contacted the skin. Disinfectant solutions are not needed. Do not rely on alcohol-based hand cleaners, as these cleaners will not remove spores as well as soap and water.

  • Used or torn gloves can be discarded in regular trash.

Respiratory Protection

Where engineering controls are not yet available, NIOSH approved N or P 100 filtering facepiece (dust mask) respirators will be available for employees to minimize risk.

How to Recognize and Handle a Suspicious Package or Envelope

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