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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
UK warns against anthrax panic
The government is worried the postal panic may spread
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has warned the public not to panic about anthrax after a series of scares across the UK.

Incidents in the US, possibly linked to the 11 September attacks, have killed one man and infected three other people, but there have been no confirmed cases of the disease outside America.

The Home Office said there was no intelligence to suggest there was a "specific threat" to Britain from biological or chemical attack.

Anthrax specimen
Only those involved in a specific incident would be tested
Two incidents in London and one in Liverpool on Tuesday all proved to be harmless.

Police have given the all-clear at Liverpool's Royal Mail sorting office, which was evacuated after a suspect powder was discovered at the site.

Experts who conducted tests on the substance later said it was sand, thought to be from Australia.

Mail disrupted

Department of Health officials also confirmed on Tuesday evening that a suspect package found at the London Stock Exchange "did not contain any trace of anthrax".

However in Essex, the sorting of overnight mail looks set to be disrupted after a suspect package prompted the evacuation of over 700 Royal Mail employees from the sorting office at Boreham near Chelmsford.

Police and fire crews were called to the scene and two hours afterwards declared the area safe.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said there had been reports of a suspicious substance found in Millbank, in London, where the BBC has studios, around 2035BST on Tuesday.

The immediate area was evacuated with the rest of the building's occupants asked to stay where they were during investigations.

Earlier scares

Twelve people were taken to hospital following the discovery of a suspect package at the post room of the London Stock Exchange.

City of London Police said the 12 staff were from the post room and have been tested "to allay their fears".

It is important that fear does not win: fear is the terrorists' victory

Alan Milburn
Health Secretary
The Stock Exchange remained open while the package was removed by officers from the bomb squad.

Another seven people were taken to hospital in Liverpool after a suspect package was spotted in a local sorting office.

The depot was evacuated after white powder fell out of a package.

The area was sealed off and five members of staff were sent to Fazakerley hospital for tests.

'Anxious time'

Tests showed a suspicious package that was delivered to the Local Government Association's offices in London was harmless.

Two floors of the building in Smith Square, central London, were evacuated but staff continued to work in the rest of the building.

Decontamination unit
A Liverpool postal worker leaves a decontamination unit
Mr Milburn, speaking in the Commons, said: "It is important that people remain calm and go about their normal lives."

He said he realised it was an "anxious time" but said the incidents proved the emergency services' contingency planning was effective.

Mr Milburn told MPs: "There is no need for public panic. Our response - all of our responses - in this House, amongst the public and in the media too is and must be proportionate."

Health guidelines

Professor Brian Duerden, medical director of the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), also gave reassurances that the necessary precautions were in place around the UK.

He added that it would be a difficult task for a would-be attacker to convert anthrax into a weapon of mass destruction.

PHLS guidance includes the importance of sealing off "the exposed zone" if anthrax spores are found and decontaminating everyone present.

Any infected people would need to take antibiotics for up to eight weeks.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"There were... false alarms across the country"
Alan Milburn, Health Secretary
"It is important that people remain calm and go about their normal lives"
Ian Simpson of the WHO
outlines what health officials should be doing to reduce public concern

Key stories


War view



See also:

16 Oct 01 | Americas
Police extend Senate anthrax tests
25 Sep 01 | UK
Is the UK prepared?
13 Oct 01 | Health
Doctors given anthrax advice
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Anthrax fears played down
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
16 Oct 01 | England
Powder found at post depot
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