October 19, 2001

Quick facts for responding to anthrax and other biological threats

Featured Image

Dr. Dan Roden is the principal investigator of the new grant. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Medical Center employees are asked to follow these rules if they receive a suspicious package:

Do not disturb the package. Call VUPD at 1-1911. Be prepared to provide the location of the package, a description, and your location and contact numbers.

If you receive and open a package, letter or note threatening anthrax contamination or other suspect substance:

Remain calm—Although any threatened use of biological agent must be treated as though it is real, experience has demonstrated that these are likely to be a hoax. If the suspected biological agent is reported as anthrax, be assured that it is not contagious from person to person, and that treatment is available and effective if administered before the onset of symptoms.


1. If it is a package or letter that you have opened, set it down gently at the location where you first read it. You may place the envelope and contents in a zip-lock style plastic bag if one is available. If it is a note that you happen to find, leave it alone. Then move to an area that will minimize your exposure to others. If possible, wash your hands with soap and water. Avoid unnecessary contact with others and remain in the area.

2. Contact VUPD at 1-1911.

3. Close doors and windows and turn off any fans in the area of the letter/note.

4. Do not allow others into the area. If anyone enters, they should stay until instructed to leave by Safety or Health responders.

5. Exposure does not mean that you will become sick. Health responders will provide specific information and instructions.

6. Faculty or staff who are concerned about their health as a result of a workplace event should complete a Tennessee First Report of Injury and call or go to the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic at 640 Medical Arts Building. Students should call or go to Student Health.


1. Do not pass the letter or note to others to examine.

2. Do not transport contents to a hospital or emergency department.

3. Do not disturb any contents in the letter or note. Handling the letter may only spread the substance inside and increase the chances of it getting into the air.

4. Do not ignore the threat; it must be treated as real until properly evaluated. n