Suspected Anthrax Threats
Anthrax and threats of other biological agents have caused people to worry about opening mail. While these threats are disturbing, the campus has taken several actions to minimize the threat and you can take additional actions.
What MU is Doing
- All U.S. mail goes through Campus Mail before reaching department offices. Campus Mail employees are on the alert for suspicious letters and packages, and will pull these out when discovered.
- University of Missouri Police Department (MUPD) and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) have developed procedures to investigate suspicious letters and packages.
- MUPD is in contact with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to obtain up to date information about threats and incidents both locally and across the nation.
- Environmental Health & Safety is maintaining contact with federal health authorities and other EHS officials at campuses nationwide to have the best available information.
What You Can Do
- Be alert for suspicious letters and packages. If one is found, contact the University of Missouri Police Department at (573) 882-7201.
- Check this Web site periodically for the latest available information.
- Contact EHS at (573) 882-7018, if you require additional information about biological agent threats.
What has MU been doing in response to current concerns related to anthrax?
Various MU departments have been meeting with each other to coordinate emergency preparedness, campus guidance, and response activities. These units are in contact with appropriate federal, state and local agencies, and with their colleagues at other universities.
If I encounter a suspicious package or letter, what should I do?
Do not shake of empty the contents of the item. Do not carry or move the item, or allow others to examine it. Put the letter down in a relatively isolated location and alert others to stay away. Wash your hands with soap and water. Contact MU Police Department at (573) 882-7201.
What will MUPD do in response to my report of a suspicious package or letter?
MUPD will ask questions and most likely send someone out to examine the item. If the item requires further investigation, MUPD will request assistance from Environmental Health & Safety, which will send someone out to remove the item.
I understand my mail is being screened and that I am unlikely to be exposed, but would it provide an additional level of safety for me to wear gloves when opening mail?
Environmental Health & Safety does not believe that wearing of gloves is necessary or desirable. Exposure to anthrax spores through the skin occurs only if there are open cuts, and anthrax contracted in this way is not particularly dangerous. The spores do not go away if they get on gloves, and workers would need to know not to rub their nose or eyes or itches or do anything else that might cause them to have skin contact with their gloves. Then, gloves need to be removed properly to avoid contact with anything on the outside of them. Also, some people are allergic to latex gloves, so there is a possible downside to using gloves.
If gloves won't help, what can I do to provide an additional level of safety when opening mail?
Some simple changes in procedures may make sense. One possibility, is to not have clerical staff open mail. If mail needs to be date stamped, then date stamp the envelope. The person to whom the letter is mailed may be better capable of determining whether the item is suspicious. Another possibility is to change the area where mail is sorted so that if a suspicious item is opened and suspicious material comes out, the area of potential contamination is minimized.
Should I be concerned about a white powder associated with software or other items I order through the Internet or mail order catalogs?
Powders and dusts are frequently observed in such packages. If this is an item you have ordered, there is no reason to suspect the presence of anthrax or other biological agents.
What if I have more questions?
Contact MUPD at (573) 882-7201 for assistance with questions related to criminal activities. Contact Environmental Health & Safety at 882-7018 about general safety concerns.
- CDC Health Advisory:
How to Handle Anthrax and Other Biological Agent Threats (PDF)
- CDC Anthrax Web Page
- CDC Health Topics Web Page