Skip navigation

You are here: Homepage > Press Room > Previous Years > Health Advisory on Handling Biological Agent Threats

Published 26th October 2001, 12:56pm

Advisory on Anthrax and Other Biological Agent Threats

The following advisory has been issued by the Public Health Department in response to concerns expressed by the public, and in the wake of recent anthrax cases in the United States. It especially relates to receiving letters which may contain powdery substances. The purpose of these guidelines is to recommend procedures for handling such incidents, should they arise in the Cayman Islands:

  1. DO NOT PANIC
    1. Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin, swallowed, or inhaled as a fine, aerosolised mist. Disease can be prevented after exposure to the anthrax spores by early treatment with the appropriate antibiotics. Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.
    2. For anthrax to be effective as a covert agent, it must be aerosolized into very small particles. This is difficult to do, and requires a great deal of technical skill and special equipment. If these small particles are inhaled, life-threatening lung infection can occur, but prompt recognition and treatment are effective.
  2. If you receive a suspicious unopened letter or package marked with threatening message
    such as "Anthrax:"
    1. Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.
    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 (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover.
    4. Then leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e. keep others away).
    5. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
    6. Immediately contact the Royal Cayman Islands Police directly or via 911.
    7. List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Provide the list to the Royal Cayman Islands Police for follow-up investigation and advice.
  3. If you open an envelope and powder spills out:
    1. Turn off local fans or ventilation units in the area.
    2. Shut down the air handling system
    3. DO NOT try to clean up the powder. Cover the spilled contents immediately with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover!
    4. Then leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
    5. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
    6. Immediately contact the Royal Cayman Islands Police directly or via 911.
    7. Remove heavily contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag, or some
      other container that can be sealed. This clothing bag should be given to the emergency responders
      for proper handling.
    8. Shower with soap and water as soon as possible.
    9. If possible, list all people who were in the room or area, especially those who had actual contact with the powder. Give this list to the Royal Cayman Islands Police for further investigation. Medical follow-ups will be arranged as deemed necessary.
  4. What should make you suspect a piece of mail? One or more of the following should arouse your
    suspicion (Use your discretion):
    1. It is unexpected or from someone you don’t know.
    2. It is addressed to someone no longer at your address.
    3. It is handwritten or poorly typed address with incorrect titles and misspellings of common words, with doubtful and suspicious return address or the postmark that does not match the return address and have restrictive endorsements such as “Personal” or “Confidential.”
    4. It has oily stains, discolourations or odour.
    5. It has visual distractions such as lopsided, lumpy in appearance or excessive postage.
    6. It has excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
    7. It has protruding wires or aluminium foil or tickling sounds. While these are some tips for suspicious mail items this does not mean that all such items need to be tested.
  5. [E] What should you do with a suspicious piece of mail?
    1. Don’t handle a letter or package that you suspect is contaminated.
    2. Don’t shake it, bump it, or sniff it.
    3. Put the mail piece in a plastic bag.
    4. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
    5. Contact the Royal Cayman Islands Police directly or via 911.

For further information please contact Public Health Services at 244-2621 or the Royal Cayman Islands Police at 949-4222.

Source: CDC and CAREC Guidelines and United States Postal Service.