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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   October 15, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160


Department Issues Guidelines for
Handling Suspicious Letters, Packages


TRENTON - In light of recent anthrax-related incidents and concerns around the country, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is providing the following steps for handling suspicious letters and packages. These steps are adopted from a health advisory issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late Friday.

Though several instances involving suspicious letters or packages have been reported and investigated in New Jersey, Health and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D. said no anthrax bacteria has been found in any of them to date. "For routine daily mail processing, it is not necessary to take extra precautions such as wearing face masks and gloves."

Following are the latest CDC recommendations:

Steps for handling a suspicious unopened letter or package:

  • Do not shake or empty the contents of the envelope or package.
  • Put the envelope or package in a plastic bag or other container to prevent leakage of the contents. If a bag or container is not available, cover the envelope or package with anything (clothing, paper, trash can, etc.). Do not remove the covering.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area.
  • Ask co-workers and others to leave and keep others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Do not bring the envelope or package to an emergency department or doctor's office.
  • Report the incident to local police or other law enforcement officials. If the incident occurs in the workplace, also notify building security or a supervisor.
  • Make a list of all people in the room or area when the letter or package was recognized. Provide the list to law enforcement and public health officials.
  • For incidents involving a possibly contaminated letter, the environment in direct contact with the letter or its contents should be decontaminated with a solution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water, following a crime scene investigation. Personal affects may be decontaminated similarly.


Steps to follow if powder from a suspicious envelope or package has spilled out:

  • Do not try to clean up the powder.
    Cover the spilled contents immediately with anything (clothing, paper, trash can, etc.). Do not remove the covering.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area. Ask co-workers and others to leave and keep others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Do not bring the envelope or package to an emergency department or doctor's office.
  • Report the incident to local police or other law enforcement officials. If the incident occurs in the workplace, also notify building security or a supervisor.
  • Remove heavily contaminated clothing and other personal items as soon as possible. Place it in a plastic bag or other container that can be sealed. Give the bag of clothing to emergency responders.
  • The bag should be labeled clearly with the owner's name, contact telephone number and inventory of the bag's contents.
  • Shower with lots of soap and water as soon as possible. Do not use bleach or other disinfectant on your skin.
  • Make a list of all people in the room or area, especially those who had actual contact with the powder. Provide the list to law enforcement and public health officials.
  • For incidents involving a possibly contaminated letter, the environment in direct contact with the letter or its contents should be decontaminated with a solution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water following a crime scene investigation. Personal affects may be decontaminated similarly.

In incidents where a biological agent is suspected in the air:

  • Turn off local fans or ventilation units in the area.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area. Ask co-workers and others to leave and keep others from entering.
  • Dial 911 to report the incident to local police and the local FBI field office. If the incident occurs in the workplace, also notify building security or a supervisor.
  • Shut down the air handling system.
  • Make a list of all people in the room or area. Provide the list to law enforcement and public health officials.
  • For incidents involving a possibly contaminated letter, the environment in direct contact with the letter or its contents should be decontaminated with a solution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water following a crime scene investigation. Personal affects may be decontaminated similarly.

Complete CDC guidelines, including tips for identifying suspicious letters or packages, are available on the Internet at www.bt.cdc.gov.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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