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News

Alabama anthrax scare analysis reveals hoax

Universal Detection Technology : 07 January, 2010  (Technical Article)
Despite further anthrax hoaxes bringing the total to 900 over the last two years, the FBI and Universal Detection Technology warns recipients of white powder through the post to treat each as a real threat and to use detection technology to analyse the threat
Universal Detection Technology, a developer of early-warning monitoring technologies to protect people from bioterrorism and other infectious health threats and provider of counter-terrorism consulting and training services, has issued an analysis of the recent reports of white powder scares to government buildings across Alabama.

Envelopes containing white powder set off anthrax scares in five Alabama cities, shutting down two federal courthouses Monday and trapping a congressman in his office as authorities tested the substance.

Authorities said letters containing white powder were sent to the Mobile and Foley offices of Republican Rep. Jo Bonner, who was forced to remain with staffers in the Mobile office while officials tested the substance. 'Each letter contained a small bag with a white powdery substance, and neither of these bags were opened,' said Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Bonner.

The FBI and US Postal Inspection Service said letters were also sent to the offices of US Rep. Mike Rogers and US Sens. Jeff Sessions in east Montgomery and Richard Shelby in the federal courthouse in downtown Montgomery. FBI spokesman Angela Tobon said all the letters sent to the lawmakers' offices appeared to be from a common source.

In a 2009 report the FBI stated that it had investigated over 900 threats made with envelopes containing white powder probably meant to look like anthrax. 'Interesting enough, over the past two-years, the FBI has responded to over 900 of these threat letters,' said FBI spokesman Rich Kolko. 'Even sending a hoax letter is a serious crime,' he added.

"The recent white powder scares are a reminder that the bioterrorism threats are imminent and can strike anywhere, anytime," said Jacques Tizabi, Universal Detection Technology's CEO. "No one can be sure in a case like this whether the substance at hand is truly anthrax or not without the proper detection equipment, so it is imperative that first responders treat every incident as an actual attack and are equipped with the appropriate tools to detect the presence of a bonafied bioweapon," said Jacques Tizabi, UNDT's CEO.

Universal Detection Technology's anthrax detection equipment has been extensively used by first responders and private industry, and has been evaluated by the US DoD as well as the United Kingdom military. The company's 5 agent biodetection kits, certified by the Department of Homeland Security, and single agent strips can notify a first responder of the presence of anthrax in as little as three minutes. UNDT's BSM-2000 system is an autonomous airborne detector of bacterial spores. The system samples the ambient air and can notify a first responder of elevated levels of bacterial spores, which is a typical signature of an airborne anthrax attack.
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