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What Kills Anthrax?

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"In the case of anthrax spores, one ingredient in this chemical cocktail essentially breaks the spores' armor, and then another chemical gets inside and kills it," Sandia spokesman John German tells WebMD.

One of the companies licensed to sell the product is Denver-based Modec Inc. The firm uses the Sandia decontaminant in several products intended for home and office use.

"One thing we've developed for the post office and the general public is a hand-washing solution," Modec CEO Brian Kalamanka tells WebMD. "The handwash can be used as a daily protective. We also sell a surface-cleaner spray made of the same product."

Do you really need this stuff? Hanna doesn't think so.

"Our lab uses simple bleach to decontaminate the benches where we work with anthrax," he says. "To kill spores in a small area -- like a desk -- use one part fresh bleach and nine parts water. Let it sit at least 30 minutes wet. And please, be careful not to get the bleach in your eyes, or on your skin where you have nicks or cuts or a hangnail."

Kalamanka admits that bleach works but notes that it is much harsher on the environment than the Sandia decontaminant. "And you can't use bleach to wash colored clothing," he notes.

Here are the CDC's latest guidelines for handling suspicious mail:

  • Don't shake the suspicious package or envelope. Don't sniff, touch, or taste any contents that may have spilled out.
  • Don't carry the suspicious mail around -- and don't have others take a look at it.
  • Put the suspicious package or envelope on the floor or someplace where it won't fall over.
  • Leave the area, closing doors behind you. Tell others about the suspicious mail, and keep anybody else from going into the area. If you can, shut off the ventilation system.
  • Wash your hands with plenty of soap and warm water.
  • If you're at work, report the incident to your supervisor, a security officer, or police. If at home, call the police or sheriff's department.
  • Make a list of the people who were in the room when the package or letter was opened. Include all people who may have handled this mail. Give copies of the list to police and to local public-health officials.

Mail is suspicious if it:

  • Was sent by someone you don't know;
  • Is addressed to someone no longer at your address;
  • Has a hand-written address with no return address or with a return address that can't be confirmed as legitimate;
  • Is lopsided or lumpy;
  • Is sealed with excessive amounts of tape;
  • Is marked "PERSONAL" or "CONFIDENTIAL";
  • Has excessive postage.

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