Unfortunately for some large companies and organizations that receive hundreds of letters and packages per day, it is a very hard task to monitor all the mail that is received.
What can be done to ensure that the mail is safe to open?
Many official organizations are highly recommending the use of medical sterilizers to kill any potential anthrax bacteria that may be lurking in the mail. The US Navy Manual on Operational Medicine and Fleet Support says that "Spore destruction requires steam sterilization..." (click here for full report).
On Oct 22nd 2001, NBC ran a special on the benefits of sterilization of mail. If you or anyone you know works in a building that receives A LOT of mail per day, then it would be the wise choice to look into sending all that mail into a sterilizer each day, to kill any and all bacteria that may be lurking inside it.
is anthrax transmitted?
are the symptoms of anthrax?
Cutaneous: Most (about 95%) anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
Inhalation: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation anthrax is usually fatal.
Intestinal: The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases.
anthrax be spread from person-to-person?
In countries where anthrax is common and vaccination levels of animal herds are low, humans should avoid contact with livestock and animal products and avoid eating meat that has not been properly slaughtered and cooked. Also, an anthrax vaccine has been licensed for use in humans. The vaccine is reported to be 93% effective in protecting against anthrax.
The anthrax vaccine is manufactured and distributed by BioPort, Corporation, Lansing, Michigan. The vaccine is a cell-free filtrate vaccine, which means it contains no dead or live bacteria in the preparation. The final product contains no more than 2.4 mg of aluminum hydroxide as adjuvant. Anthrax vaccines intended for animals should not be used in humans.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommend anthrax vaccination for the following groups:
The immunization consists of three subcutaneous injections given 2 weeks apart followed by three additional subcutaneous injections given at 6, 12, and 18 months. Annual booster injections of the vaccine are recommended thereafter.
Mild local reactions occur in 30% of recipients and consist of slight tenderness and redness at the injection site. Severe local reactions are infrequent and consist of extensive swelling of the forearm in addition to the local reaction. Systemic reactions occur in fewer than 0.2% of recipients.
is anthrax diagnosed?
1. Close the windows and carefully cover the powder with a large cloth (or a jacket) to prevent the powder from stirring. Then leave the room. (If it is not possible to cover the powder, there is no need to worry. However, when leaving, move slowly and quietly so as not to stir the powder.) Note: Closing the windows is not to prevent spores from going outside. Leaving windows open while opening a door could allow the wind to blow the powder.
2. Call the police immediately upon leaving the room. Everyone who was in the room should gather in one place and wait for medical personnel to arrive. Never send anyone, for instance, to get some clothes. Furthermore, any rescuer who was on the scene without a proper outfit, and those who were in contact with or near the substance, should follow steps 4-6 below.
3. Those who directly touched the powder or who were nearby should wash their hands thoroughly, take off their clothes, and shower right away. (If a shower is not available, do not leave, and wait for help).
4. Change your clothes. The clothes that everyone was wearing should be placed in one area and later disposed of by following an expert's instructions.
5. Never take anything out of the room where the letter was opened. Seal off the contaminated area and prohibit access to it.
6. Anyone who was in the room must consult a doctor. (MedWave)
can I get more information about the recent Department of Defense decision
to require men and women in the Armed Services to be vaccinated against
How can Anthrax be prevented?