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Suspicious powder tests negative for anthrax

Tests for anthrax were negative on the white powder discovered Oct. 16 in a piece of mail by a lecturer in foreign languages and literatures at MIT. Officials at the Massachusetts State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain carried out the tests on Oct. 17.

Around 50 members of the MIT community attended an Oct. 16 information session on bioterrorism at MIT Medical. Dr. David V. Diamond, chief of medicine at MIT Medical, and Dr. Howard M. Heller, an MIT Medical internist and specialist in infectious diseases, fielded questions about anthrax, how best to handle mail, where antibiotics would come from if they were needed, and what the Institute is doing to guard against terrorism.

"It was a good interchange of people seeking information," Diamond said. "There were no overriding emotions. People seemed in control."

Heller spoke briefly about the nature of anthrax and the types of risk associated with being exposed to the disease through the mail. This would primarily lead to a skin infection, he said, which is easily recognizable and treatable. Diamond explained the reasoning behind MIT Medical's guideline of prescribing antibiotics only for documented infections.

More information and links on anthrax and handling mail is available here.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 24, 2001.

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