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Anthrax scares worry local, area residents

High anxiety and wary citizens have kept the Ironton police and fire departments busy over the last few days while they investigate suspicious mail reported by residents.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

High anxiety and wary citizens have kept the Ironton police and fire departments busy over the last few days while they investigate suspicious mail reported by residents.

Mayor Bob Cleary said the city’s public safety departments have received a high number of calls from residents reporting suspicious letters or packages. He said the city investigates the suspicious letter or package and makes a decision as to what steps need to be taken.

Cleary said the suspicious letter or package is usually destroyed by the police department. Cleary said the departments lack the training and equipment needed to open the packages.

He added that packages deemed highly unusual are sent to the FBI and usually are forwarded to the Ohio Department of Health for testing.

IPD Detective Captain Chris Bowman said the city has sent two packages to the ODH, but test results haven’t been received. He said the ODH labs are backed up several days because of the high volume of mail received for testing. He added the police department will continue to follow protocol in handling suspicious mail.

Cleary, meanwhile, said the city is taking the bioterrorism cases seriously and is working to help alleviate concerns of residents. He added that city employees are also taking precautions when opening the mail. He said employees are on alert for unusual packages and are wearing rubber gloves when opening the mail.