Contaminated Mailings

Campus and non-campus based mail and delivery services may be used to distribute toxic or lethal materials such as anthrax.

Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:

  • Excessive postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect titles
  • Title, but no name
  • Misspellings of common words
  • Oily stains, discoloration, or odor
  • No return address
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Restrictive terms such as "Personal" or "Confidential" or a state postmark that does not match the return address

If you receive a package you feel to be suspicious:

  • Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.
  • Place the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.
  • If you do not have any container, cover the envelope or package with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Call the University Police.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any contaminant to your face.
  • Remove heavily contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag or some other container that can be sealed. This clothing bag should be given to the emergency responders for proper handling. Shower with soap and water as soon as possible. Do not use bleach or other disinfectant on your skin.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was received. Give this list to law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.

Note: Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin, 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.

If you have reason to believe that a room or area on campus has been contaminated by aerosolization (a small device triggered, warning that air-handling system is contaminated, or warning that a biological agent has been released in a public space):

  • Turn off all local fans or ventilation units in the area.
  • Leave the area immediately.
  • Close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
  • Report the incident to University Police and your supervisor.
  • List all people who were in the room or area. Give this list to law enforcement officials for further investigation.

See the Centers for Disease Control website on Emergency Preparedness for more anthrax information.