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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK
Postal service stung by criticism
Postal worker in Detroit wears a mask and gloves to collect mail
The US Postal Service is to spend $1bn on worker safety
The United States Postal Service has been hit hard by the wave of anthrax-infected letters sent to Washington and New York.

Two of the three deaths linked to the disease have been of postal workers, several more are ill, and thousands of workers are being tested for anthrax.

Workers said the government did not act swiftly enough to protect workers in Washington after anthrax-infected mail was first discovered in mail facilities.

Postal precautions
$1bn package on new security measures
'Suspicious Mail Alert' posters and videos distributed to thousands of mail rooms
Radiation equipment to screen mail in several locations in the US
Stung by the criticism, the Post Office announced on Monday that it intends to spend $1billion on new security measures, including machines using radiation to detect potentially fatal diseases such as the anthrax bacteria.

They are also sending cards to 147 million addresses in America, telling people how to deal with suspect post in an attempt to assuage public fears about the possibilities of contracting anthrax from infected mail.

A "Suspicious Mail Alert" poster and a video is being distributed to thousands of mail rooms - both within the Postal Service and at US businesses, in an attempt to increase vigilance among its workers.

Detection systems

Central to the Post Office's plan is the implementation of sophisticated mail processing systems aimed at preventing infected mail from infecting its staff or the public.

Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge with Postmaster General John Potter in Washington on Monday
The government has tried to dampen fears
Postal spokesman Greg Frey said that the systems they were looking at were similar to those used in food processing.

Powerful radiation should kill bacteria and the spores of such diseases as anthrax, he said.

However, Mr Frey took pains to emphasise that that the Post Office's first line of defence remained the vigilance of the company's employees.

"We need their watchful eyes and common sense to help us all through this period," he said.

Target of terrorism

This is personal, we've lost two of our own

Postmaster General John Potter
Postmaster General John Potter also promised the American public that postal authorities would introduce further sweeping new measures to prevent the US Postal Service being exploited by terrorists.

"It is clear to us (that), like other symbols of American freedom and power, the mail and our employees have become a target of terrorists.

"It is equally clear that we must take extraordinary steps to protect them both," he added.

Potter also said that the $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of those suspected of carrying our the attacks still stood, in the hope that financial incentives will encourage informers to come forward.

"This is personal, we've lost two of our own," he said.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Americas
New anthrax fear grips US
23 Oct 01 | Business
Bayer beats Canada in anthrax row
23 Oct 01 | Business
America's anthrax patent dilemma
22 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax 'likely' in US postal deaths
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Anthrax alert at US consulate
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