Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

Anthrax alert reaches FSM

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): October 26, 2001 - The effects of the terrorist chemical warfare crusade against the United States with the biological toxin, Anthrax, has rippled across to the Pacific islands of the Federated States of Micronesia.

At the beginning of the October, several letters meeting the criteria for suspect mail were received at the nation government. These letters were stamped abroad, addressed to the key members of the government and had no return address.

The letters were processed through a specialized unit of the National Police which found "no powder or other substances that would indicate anthrax or any other substances."

Following the mail incident, President Leo A. Falcam issued on October 15, an announcement for the public to take extra caution in opening mail. The announcement in its entirety reads:

"This past week there have been several incidents in the United States in which their citizens have been exposed to biological toxins that were received through the mail. All involved the Anthrax bacteria, spores of which were mixed in a powder and put into envelopes. United States law enforcement agencies are advising that all recipients of mail use extra caution in opening mail. Particular concerns should be for mail received from outside the FSM from sources unknown to the recipient, especially if it does not have a return address.

Additional care should be taken to not shake mail and not to come into contact with any powder or other substances, either lose or in a small container within the package or envelope. If you believe you have come into contact with a letter containing a toxic substance, please place the envelope in a tightly sealed plastic bag and contact your local hospital or doctor, and the police.

If you have questions or concern about any package or letter, please contact your State Public Safety Department. You may also consider contacting the National Police, at (691) 320-2628 for further information and guidance. You are further reminded to report any suspicious activity to the Public Safety Department for your state, or to the National Police in Palikir, Pohnpei at (691) 320-2628."

In its natural state, anthrax has a low rate of infection among people. Experts say it takes a sophisticated lab and advanced skills to turn the natural anthrax spore into an aerosol that can cause death from lung infection.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, once it is processed and turned into spores, the Anthrax spores produces a toxin that can be fatal to humans. The spores can spread by inhalation (the most fatal form), ingestion or contact with an abrasion on the skin. Usually symptoms appear within seven days.

Inhalation anthrax infection can start out like a common cold before acute symptoms such as severe breathing problems and shock. Cutaneous (skin) infection can look like an insect bite at first but within days develops into an ulcer with a characteristic black center. Infection by consuming contaminated food is characterized by inflammation of the intestinal tract, leading to vomiting of blood and severe diarrhea.

Antibiotics are the usual treatment. A delay in the use of antibiotics may lessen chances for survival.

Direct, person-to-person spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely. It is not contagious.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356