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Hospital takes precautions, but anthrax not expected

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2002

A business office employee of the Central Peninsula General Hospital was confronted by the threat of anthrax on Tuesday morning when she opened a postmarked business envelope and found what appeared to be white powder.

The hospital, which took the threat seriously, immediately implemented the newest procedures put in place to deal with the threat of bioterrorism. They isolated the area, contacted Alaska State Troopers and called the state of Alaska Office of Epidemiology.

Michelle Crawford, the hospital safety officer, investigated the area and found no evidence of powder at the employee's workstation or on her clothing.

"We are trained to check for residue, but found nothing that would confirm a bioterrorism incident," Crawford said.

Because there was no residue on the letter, in the office, or on the employee, the state considers the incident low-risk. As a precaution, and according to protocols established by the state, all people in the office at the time the incident occurred were taken to the hospital's alternative emergency department, to be treated by an emergency physician.

Troopers who responded to the incident sent the envelope to the trooper's Criminal Investigative Bureau in Anchorage and to the Office of Epidemiology for testing.

"We don't expect a problem, but we are taking every precaution," CPGH Administrator Jay Seigfreid said.

"If you are the one who opened the envelope, you may be very concerned. But I don't think the state epidemiologists are very worried about this."



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