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Additional advice for the handling of mail

The following safety advisory on anthrax was issued today by MIT's Director of Public Safety Anne P. Glavin:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, has issued some additional, helpful guidelines on the handling of mail and when law enforcement authorities should be contacted. Those guidelines have been incorporated into this advisory.


Please do not panic. To date, no anthrax has been found in Massachusetts.

Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.

Exposure to anthrax does not necessarily mean infection.

If it is determined that there is exposure, infection can be prevented.

Samples from two reports of suspicious mail at MIT have been sent to the State Laboratory by Cambridge Fire Hazmat. The test results from the first case at Building 14 have already been found to be negative for anthrax.


The previous advisory issued on Monday, October 15th provides members of the community with information on characteristics of suspicious mail. It is important to examine your mail while keeping these characteristics in mind.

It is also recommended that you consider wearing disposable gloves when you handle mail and that you wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Hypoallergenic, disposable gloves are freely provided by MIT at Building 56-070, the VWR Scientific office.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued Guidelines to Responding to Concerns about Anthrax. These guidelines are found on the following website:

If a letter, package, or object is of known origin (i.e. it is a usual or expected item from a known business or individual), conforms with the characteristics of normal mail, is not accompanied by any written or verbal threats, and contains no powdery substance, there is little or no health risk. There is no need to contact law enforcement or health officials.

If a letter, package or object is of known origin (i.e. it is a usual or expected item from a known business or individual), is not accompanied by any written or verbal threat, and some particulate matter is found in or around it, the health risk is low. There is no need to contact health or law enforcement officials. If there is a question, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health information line is available at 1-866-627-7968.

If a letter, package or object contains a powdery substance and/or a written or verbal threat the following is advised:

1. Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package; do not try to clean up powders or fluids.

2. Place the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.

3. If you do not have any container, then cover the envelope or package with anything (i.e., clothing, paper, trashcan, etc.) and do not remove the cover.

4. Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.

5. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face or skin.

6. At this point you should immediately contact the MIT Police by dialing x100 or 253-1212 and advise the police dispatcher of the details of what you have found, your name and location and what action you have taken.

7. Contact your supervisor.

8. Stay in the immediate area until emergency responders arrive on the scene to assist you.

It is important to use common sense in dealing with this situation and to pay attention to the guidelines and precautions that have been issued for the handling of mail. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact MIT's BioSafety Office at x3-1740, the Director of Public Safety at x3-9760, or the MIT Police at x3-2996.

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