Los Angeles: Recently, there have been numerous calls for police service involving substances believed to be anthrax or other chemical or biological agents. Generally, these incidents have involved either letters sent via U.S. Mail or telephonic threats to particular individuals and buildings. In some incidents, the threat communication was combined with the actual dispersal of a hoax agent (e.g., a powder like substance). While all the calls in the Los Angeles area have, thus far, resulted in negative tests for these agents, the Department is empathetic to the fears and concerns being expressed by members of the community. It is the goal of the Los Angeles Police Department to engage in actions that will allay the fears and concerns of community members.
WHAT IS ANTHRAX?
According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Anthrax is a Bacteria, which occurs naturally in cattle, sheep and other hoofed animals. Approximately 15-20 cases of Anthrax occur each year in the United States, usually among workers associated with hoofed animals. Anthrax is introduced to the body through scratches or abrasions of the skin and/or by inhaling the Anthrax spores. It can also be introduced to the body by eating insufficiently cooked infected meat. Inhalation of the Anthrax spores presents the greatest risk to humans. The incubation period is 1-7 days and the early symptoms include fever, fatigue, coughs and nausea. Direct person-to- person spread of Anthrax is extremely unlikely, if it occurs at all. Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics. Adherence to the following safety tips will greatly reduce the chances of being afflicted with Anthrax.
According to the USPS, some typical characteristics Postal Inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion or concern, include parcels that may:
Be Unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
Be addressed to someone who no longer residing in your residence/no longer assigned to your organization or otherwise outdated (e.g., improper title).
Bear no return address, or one that can’t be verified as legitimate.
Be of unusual weight, given its size, or be lopsided.
Be marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential".
Exhibit protruding wires, strange odors or stains.
Exhibit a City or State in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.
In the event you open a letter and you notice a substance which causes concern to you, place letter and envelope in a sealable plastic bag or container to limit further exposure. Wash your hands with soap and water and immediately notify your local community police station.
If you receive a suspicious parcel in the mail, Do Not Open It. Isolate it and call your local community police station. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, if you receive an item of mail that you simply do not wish to accept or open, write "Return to Sender" on the item and return it to the post office, or simply throw it away.
Additional information regarding Anthrax, its symptoms and effects and safety tips can be acquired by accessing the FBI’s web site or the U.S.P.S. web site. Additionally, you may access the CDC’s web site.
LAPD Police Chief Bernard C. Parks stated that, "While we encourage the community to return to a state of normalcy, following the recent attacks on our nation, it is important that we identify new standards for what is to be considered "normal". That is not to suggest that we shouldn’t go to the movies, malls, amusement parks, etc. Quite the contrary. We should continue doing those things, but with a renewed sense of vigilance and awareness of our surroundings as we go about the business of our daily lives. The purpose of these series of safety tips is to assist community members in this regard."
This media advisory was prepared by Police Officer Victoria Diaz, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.