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Update on Safety Issues

Posted Dec. 6, 2001

Sanitized mail being delivered to campus
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has provided information regarding the mail pieces that were held at the contaminated Hamilton postal facility. All mail pieces have been or will be irradiated at a facility in Bridgeport, NJ. A team of scientific experts found the irradiation process to be effective in destroying anthrax and recommended releasing this mail for delivery after it has been treated. This team has assured the USPS that the mail pieces are safe to handle.

As a precautionary measure to ensure the integrity of this process, USPS will put all letter mail pieces in a clear plastic bag and labels on packages and flats to alert customers that the specific mail piece was irradiated and is safe to handle. While we have been assured the irradiation process itself is safe, it can cause some damage to some products that contained within this mail. The products, identified by the scientific team, should not be used if they were contained in a package or envelope that has been irradiated. The products should be discarded and replacements should be obtained.

For more details, see the full announcement.

Posted Nov. 13, 2001, noon

No anthrax found in envelope received at Woodrow Wilson School
The University was notified by local authorities at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 13, that tests showed no anthrax contamination in a suspicious letter that was received at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs on Tuesday, Nov. 6. At this point, there are no reasons to be concerned about the contents of the letter.

For the complete story, click here.

Additional mail training sessions scheduled
Additional mail-handling training sessions have been scheduled for noon Tuesday, Nov. 13, and Monday, Nov. 19, in Frist 302.University members who handle bulk mail and have yet to attend a training session are required to receive training before handling bulk mail. The sessions are open to all University members.

The University is asking all of its community members to review the anthrax threat guidelines available on the campus emergency preparedness and response Web site. There is no threat of anthrax associated with the University. However,
precautions are necessary due to the continuing national crisis.

Posted Nov. 12, 2001, 4:25 p.m.

Four local postal facilities cleaned, reopened after finding trace amounts of anthrax spores
Friday afternoon, Nov. 9, the state Department of Health released the results of environmental sampling for anthrax contamination at 49 facilities that feed the Hamilton processing facility.

Of 896 samples collected in 49 post offices, four samples tested positive and a fifth sample has been resubmitted for testing due to an uncertain result. Princeton Borough's Palmer Square facility was among the post offices with a single positive test result showing a trace amount of anthrax. The other facilities are in Rocky Hill, Jackson Township and Trenton. The single uncertain result is from the Allentown, N.J., post office.

Four of these facilities have been cleaned and reopened, and the Allentown facility was being cleaned during the Veterans Day holiday break.

This sampling was conducted as a follow up to the discovery of apparent low level cross-contamination at the West Windsor and Bellmawr, N.J., postal facilities in late October. In response to these findings, both the Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health are advising postal service employees against the use of prophylactic antibiotics, while urging employees to address any health concerns to their health care providers.

The finding of four isolated positive samples is, according to New Jersey State epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., "most likely a case of cross contamination from letters that came from the Hamilton mail processing facility in October. The risk of any workers at these post offices developing anthrax disease is extremely low."

At this point, there has not been a reported case of anthrax symptoms in New Jersey in more than three weeks. The University continues to encourage all individuals who handle mail to follow the procedures discussed during the mail handling training sessions held over the previous three weeks and the guidance available on the mail handling Web page.

Counseling offered following New York plane crash on Nov. 12
Counseling assistance is available for members of the University community who might have been affected by the jet airliner crash in New York on Monday, Nov. 12.

Students may contact the Counseling Center for help at 258-3285. Faculty and staff can call the Employee Assistance Program for counseling help at 258-1875.

The International Center is also available to advise international students and visiting scholars. They may be reached at 258-5006.

At 9:17 a.m. on Nov. 12, American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 carrying 255 people, crashed in the Rockaway section of Queens, a borough of New York City. It had left New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and was bound for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At least 16 people on the ground were injured in the crash as well.

Click here for current news updates from CNN.

Posted Nov. 8, 2001, 4 p.m.

Updated guidelines on anthrax and mail handling posted

The Emergency Preparedness Task Force has posted updated procedures for dealing with suspicious packages, general precautions for mail handling, a description of anthrax symptoms, and related information.

If you receive a suspicious package or envelope, please call Public Safety at 911 or 8-3134. Do not worry about burdening the Public Safety department. It is prepared to handle increased requests.

If you receive a suspicious item in the mail, follow the steps below:

  1. Do NOT shake, bump or try to OPEN the mail.
  2. If there is spilled powder, do not try to clean it up. Do not smell, touch or taste the material.
  3. Either leave the mail where you found it, or carefully place it in a clear, sealable plastic bag, such as a freezer-sized, zip-lock bag. Do not attempt to open the mail inside the bag.
  4. If you are wearing protective gloves, remove them and place them in a sealable plastic bag.
  5. Calmly alert others in the immediate area. Leave the area, closing the door behind you. Do not let anyone other than safety officials enter the area.
  6. Wash your hands and exposed skin vigorously with soap and flowing water for at least 20 seconds. Antibacterial lotions that do not require water are not effective for removing anthrax
  7. Call Public Safety at 911 or 8-3134 and give them your exact location.
  8. Wait for Public Safety to respond. Do not leave the building unless instructed to do so by Public Safety personnel.

Posted Nov. 8, 2001, 1 p.m.

Woodrow Wilson School open; no test results available yet

A hazmat team Tuesday removed a suspicious letter from Robertson Hall in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and law enforcement authorities sent it for testing at a state laboratory. An enclosed office on the first floor was decontaminated and will be kept secure until the test results are received.

University officials are communicating with state officials and plan to report test results as soon as they are available.

On Tuesday, Robertson Hall was closed from about 11 a.m. until shortly after 2 p.m., with no one permitted to enter or leave the building.

Because the letter is considered suspicious by law enforcement authorities, testing is expected to proceed as quickly as possible.

At a briefing for people who were in the building, public safety officials said the letter had no return address on the envelope. The envelope contained an oily substance, described as having the consistency of paint, that was wrapped in plastic.

No powder was seen, and the officials said there was nothing to suggest that the substance could have been released into the air. The ventilation system was turned off as another standard precaution.

The letter was immediately reported to public safety officials, who notified local law-enforcement authorities. The Princeton Borough police notified the Trenton hazmat team. The unsigned letter, which was mailed from Canada, was placed in a plastic bag and then double-bagged and removed.

The two staff members who handled the letter were offered antibiotics as a precaution, and the risk to them is considered minimal.

Since there was no evidence of aerosolization of the substance, there is no reason at this time to treat others in the building who were not in the immediate area and did not handle the letter, said Dr. Janet Neglia, director of clinical services at University Health Services. However, as always, people should be aware of the symptoms of anthrax and report a change in health status or skin condition for investigation, she said.

Those in the building will be notified directly when test results are received. New information also will be promptly posted on the University's home page.

All members of the Princeton community are advised to review guidelines for handling suspicious mail. Anyone who receives a piece of suspicious mail, should not open it and should call the University's Department of Public Safety at 911 or 258-3134. (Click here to download the FBI's .pdf poster on suspicious mail.)

Posted Nov. 6, 2001, 1:19 p.m.

Held mail released to campus

The university's incoming mail that was held the last week of October -- after the discovery of a very small amount of anthrax at the main Princeton post office in West Windsor -- is no longer on hold, as of Tuesday, Nov. 6. The United States Postal Service has determined that there is no need to decontaminate this mail.

In related news, the post office building on Roszel Road in West Windsor reopened to the public on Monday, Nov. 5.

Posted Nov. 2, 2001

Nov. 2 update issued on safety and security measures

The following memo was sent to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 2 from Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Spies, who chairs the University's emergency response and emergency preparedness task forces.

Earlier this week, an e-mail was distributed to all students, faculty and staff encouraging them to regularly check the University home page, the crisis response Web site and the Web site of the emergency preparedness task force for frequently updated information on steps being taken to address concerns about recent developments regarding anthrax and other possible terrorist threats. This email summarizes some of the steps that have been taken and refers you to other helpful information. Please continue to check these three Web sites regularly.

Click here to read the rest of the statment, which includes the latest details about mail, health and safety issues.

Posted Oct. 29

No anthrax at Frist, test results negative

The University was notified Oct. 29 by state officials that the final test results of the powdery substance found in Frist Campus Center on Oct. 22 are negative, which means no anthrax was detected.

On Monday, Oct. 22, a student noticed a suspicious powdery substance on a computer and its keyboard. The University took precautionary measures, including calling a HAZMAT team that decontaminated the area and sent the substance to the state for testing.

For more information, view Frequently Asked Questions.

Posted Oct. 25, 2001

McCosh on alert for flu-like symptoms

Princeton University Health Services soon will have available quick-detection flu kits that can rule out the likelihood of influenza. University students who exhibit flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches and cough) should seek care at McCosh Health Center.
    People infected by inhalation anthrax normally exhibit flu-like symptoms. Should University students have flu-like symptoms, taking this test will help healthcare providers in their diagnostic efforts.
    Several reported cases of anthrax in New Jersey and in the nation have increased community fears that an anthrax threat may occur on campus. University public safety and health officials are taking appropriate precautions and, to date, there has been no evidence of anthrax on campus. If there is a high likelihood that someone has contracted anthrax, treatment can be initiated at McCosh Health Center.
    A one-day walk-in clinic also is being sponsored by University Health Services from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in Multipurpose Room B, Frist Campus Center. At the clinic, flu and meningitis vaccines will be available for University students.
    Flu vaccine for employees is being offered on Thursday, Nov. 1 and Friday, Nov. 2. Employees should call 8-5035 for an appointment. Everyone is encouraged to be immunized.

Posted Oct. 19, 2001

Task force formed
The University has formed an Emergency Preparedness Task Force to review our existing planning and preparedness efforts and develop appropriate responses to credible threats to the health and safety of the University Community. The task force Web site will be updated frequently.

Campus Security
Since the attacks, the University has taken necessary precautions and has increased security at public events including athletics events and lectures. Communication and collaboration with local law-enforcement and FBI officials have intensified, and there is a stronger presence of municipal officers at certain University events.
    More specific information about security plans will not be released, as widespread release undermines effectiveness. If you have security-related concerns, please call Public Safety at 258-3134.

Hazardous laboratory materials
No research takes place at Princeton involving the use of anthrax or other materials identified as dangerous "select agents" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anthrax and Bioterrorism
In the past few days, concerns over the threat of Anthrax as a tool of terrorism have circulated widely in the media. Several high profile offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and other areas have received suspicious mail containing traces of Anthrax.
    Princeton University is providing useful information, as it becomes available, so that our community members can respond effectively should an incident occur here. For more information about Anthrax, refer to the following resources:
Anthrax Threat Guidelines for Princeton University
How to Handle Anthrax and Other Biological Agent Threats: Official Advisory from Centers for Disease Control
FBI Advisory for Suspicious Mail, (PDF file)
Questions and Answers about Anthrax, Centers for Disease Control
What You Should Know About Anthrax, NJ Department of Health
Bioterrorism Preparedness & Response, NJ Department of Health

The University understands the widespread concerns regarding travel at this time. We will be as flexible as possible with absences or special needs prompted by current travel conditions.

Travel Assistance
Emergency financial support is available for students, faculty or staff members who need to travel in response to the ongoing national crisis. There are no strict guidelines; each case is handled individually.
    For more information, contact the Response line at 258-7700. Undergraduate students should contact the office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students at 258-3052.

Travel abroad
Minor revisions have been made to academic-related undergraduate travel abroad policies and procedures.
    For more information, please read Provost Amy Gutmann's Oct. 18, 2001 memo.

Campus resources
Public Safety: 609-258-3134
University Health Services: Dr. Pamela Bowen, Director, 609-258-2300 or 609-258-3139 (24-hours)
Environmental Health and Safety: Don Robasser, University Sanitarian, 609-258-6256

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