FAQ's about Anthrax
Who should I call if I have questions about anthrax?
Call the Mills County Public Health Department. Information is also available at this website - www.mcph.millscoia.us
Who should I call if I receive a suspicious letter or package?
Your local police department
Who should I call if I believe I have been exposed to anthrax?
The Mills County Public Health Department and your physician
What should I keep in mind as I open my mail?
Here are some things to consider when deciding if a package or letter is suspicious:
- No return address or restrictive markings
- Possibly from foreign country or excessive postage
- Lopsided, uneven, rigid or bulky
- Addressed to title only or incorrect title used
- Badly typed or handwritten
- Protruding wires
- Misspelled words
- Strange odor
- Oily, discolored, crystallization on wrapper
- Excessive tape or string
What should I do if I receive a suspicious letter or package?
- Put the package or letter down, and do not further disturb it to prevent making potentially infectious aerosols.
- Do not open, taste, sniff, shake or otherwise disturb.
- Place it inside a plastic bag if possible.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Seal the area off from further traffic.
- Contact local police department to describe the object of concern.
What will law enforcement do?
Local law enforcement personnel will decide if the threat is credible and take appropriate action.
What happens if there has been an exposure?
The Iowa Department of Public Health will contact Mills County Public Health Department for further follow-up.
Does my doctor know how to recognize anthrax?
All physicians in Mills County have been provided with information in order to identify the symptoms and signs of the different types of anthrax. If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, contact your doctor and he/she can evaluate you.
Should I take antibiotics to prevent getting anthrax?
If you have not been exposed, there is no need to take antibiotics in order to prevent anthrax. Antibiotics may have side effects, and the overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria.
Can a person get screened or tested for anthrax?
There is no test available that is useful to assess exposure to anthrax. If an exposure were to occur, public health officials will investigate and inform people whether they have been exposed and if they need antibiotics.
The blood tests or nasal swabs that you read or hear about are not useful to determine whether an individual should be treated with antibiotics. They are used only to determine the extent of exposure in a given situation.
There is a lot of talk about our food supply being targeted by terrorists. Is there anything that I can do to keep the food I am eating safe?
The following are steps to prevent food-borne illnesses, including gastrointestinal anthrax. These steps should be taken regardless of any bioterrorism threat. Precautions beyond these are not required.
- Clean - Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after food preparations. Uncooked foods such as fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating.
- Separate - Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods; never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat or poultry, uncooked eggs or seafood. Make sure to clean all cutting surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot, soapy water before preparing additional food items.
- Cook - Foods must be heated at a high enough temperature and long enough to kill harmful bacteria. A short list of proper cooking temperatures are: roast and steaks to 145°F, ground beef to 155°F, pork to 155°F, poultry to 165°F and any stuffed meat to 165°F. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F.
- Chill - Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours and make sure the refrigerator is set at no higher than 40°F and that the freezer unit is set at 0°F.