Given the recent anthrax cases, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has issued guidelines for handling suspicious mail.
It is stressed that anthrax is not an immediate threat and must be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin via an open wound to cause infection. It is difficult to keep anthrax airborne due to its large particle size, therefore airborne exposure is unlikely.
Here are the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension guidelines for dealing with possible anthrax-contaminated packages or letters, developed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
* Do not open a letter or package that appears suspicious. Isolate the packages, seal them in a clear plastic bag and call local law enforcement.
* If a package or letter is opened and suspected of containing anthrax, have the person who found it place the letter in a container such as a sealable plastic bag, double bag it if possible. The use of rubber gloves is recommended.
* Minimize the number of people who come in contact with the letter or package by closing off the area it was in.
* Have the person or people who touched the letter or package wash their hands and face with soap and water.
* Call 911 and the state Emergency Operations Hotline at 800-657-3504.
* Move all uninvolved people to a holding area. Ask people that might have been impacted to write down their names, phone numbers and addresses.
* Ask people to remain calm.
* Ask individuals involved in the incident to minimize contact with the letter or their surroundings as it may be a crime scene.
* Limited decontamination with soap and water shower, and a change of clothing, for a person who handled the letter without gloves may be appropriate. Bag cloths for later analysis. Anthrax is not contagious and only people in the immediate area of exposure need to evaluate for decontamination.
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