“If someone feels that there is a potential threat they should not open the mail,” Frey advised. “That person should place it in a plastic bag–preferably one that has those zipper locks on it–wash their hands with warm soap and water, and then call the local law enforcement agency and ask for the hazardous material team. They will take over at that point.”

Frey added that postal employees have been instructed on identifying problematic pieces of mail, and reminded that particle face masks and gloves are available.

North of the border, Frey’s counterpart, Canada Post spokesman John Caines, said that while that country’s Ministry of Health does not perceive an equal risk for biological terrorism, the Post is handling such concerns with similar seriousness.

“Obviously we are so close to the US and there’s a huge amount of mail exchange between the US and Canada,” Caines told Reuters Health. “And we’re reacting to the situation down there with military and other supportive actions, so there is a possibility that someone could retaliate.”

With that in mind, Caines said that cautionary advisories–along the lines of those outlined in the US–have been issued to Canadian consumers and postal employees, in order to preserve “the integrity of the mail.”

Despite such precautions, both Caines and Frey took pains to emphasize that North America’s postal systems are reliably and safely operating at full steam.
“This is not Benjamin Franklin’s post office,” said Frey. “So we are encouraging our customers to be watchful and use common sense, and not go into a panic–while our machines continue to sort through mail at 40,000 pieces per hour.”

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