Suspicious Letters / Packages

If you receive a suspicious letter or package, call the Madison Police Department immediately at 911.

Based on Center for Disease Control Guidelines, the following protocol is to be followed when encountering suspicious letters or packages, to include those containing powders and/or foreign substances:
  • Do not open mail or packages with no return address or from foreign countries
  • Do not open letters with oily stains, or those which are lopsided, rigid, bulky, discolored or have a strange odor
  • Do not open letters with no postage or non-cancelled postage
  • Use a letter opener to open mail, not your hands
  • Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package; do not try to clean up powders or fluids
  • Place the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents
  • If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) do not remove this cover
  • After covering the envelope or package, leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to keep others from entering
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face or skin
  • List all the people who were in the area when this letter or package was recognized as suspicious
  • Do not open unsolicited packages or brown mailer envelopes
Do Not Panic
Anthrax organisms can cause skin infection, gastrointestinal infection or pulmonary infection. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin, swallowed, or inhaled as a fine, aerosolized mist. It does not leap into one's body.

All forms of disease are generally treatable with antibiotics. 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.
  • Anthrax cannot be easily aerosolized out of an envelope or package containing powder.
The same facts and conditions are generally true for other bacteria likely to be considered as biological weapons. 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.