For Immediate Release

October 18, 2001

Local Officials Meet
To Address Anthrax Concerns

Local law enforcement, emergency services and health officials met Tuesday afternoon to re-affirm a plan for management of potential exposure to a biological agent. Due to the heightened concerns of citizens within the county in regards to this type of threat and recent national news surrounding anthrax, this group met in a collaborative effort to share information with the public.

The following recommended protocols have been established:

  • Individuals who have received letters or parcels that seem suspicious can take the following steps:

    • Place the item in a location away from yourself and all other people. DO NOT OPEN PACKAGE/LETTER!
    • Local Law Enforcement should be notified by calling 911. They will be on the scene to secure the item, and coordinate with other authorities to respond as appropriate. This may include testing as needed in the State Laboratory of Public Health.
    • The individual(s) who opened or may have had contact with the letter or package that contains an unknown substance should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water.
    • There is no need for any decontamination of individuals who have not had direct contact with the letter or package that contains an unknown substance.
    • Testing of individuals exposed to an unknown substance for an infectious agent by use of nasal swabs or blood tests is not appropriate.

The use of prophylactic antibiotics should be based on the results of the laboratory testing of the letter or package that contains an unknown substance; there is no need to start antibiotics prior to the analysis of the item. There would be time to effectively take antibiotics after testing has been completed.

If you do not have symptoms and there is no known exposure to anthrax, you do not need diagnostic testing. (Exposure would be defined as the package having been open and a spilling of a substance).

If you do not have symptoms, but there was potential exposure to anthrax, your risk level will be assessed. If appropriate, testing will be conducted and treatment will be initiated.

If you have symptoms compatible with anthrax, such as fever or flu-like symptoms, lab specimens will be taken to confirm the possible diagnosis.

If you are exhibiting these symptoms, you need to call your health provider.

There is currently no test that allows individuals to be screened for exposure to a biological threat agent such as anthrax. The NC Division of Public Health strongly recommends against prescribing antibiotics for persons coming in contact with threatening or suspicious letters/parcels unless a confirmed exposure has been documented by laboratory testing.

Health officials are also urging Internet users to not fall victim to e-mail hoaxes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a Web site that tracks such hoaxes at

Acting State Health Director Leah Devlin issued the following statement: "We want people to exercise caution, but we also want them to know that they have control over such situations - even in the extremely unlikely event that they actually receive mail containing a harmful substance. People need to be aware that the growing number of hoaxes, and the confusion surrounding real situations, are creating unnecessary public hysteria regarding the receipt of letters, packages and parcels."

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