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"This is a sad day for the United States Postal Service," Postmaster General Jack Potter told employees today after confirming the deaths of two Washington, DC-area employees. There is strong suspicion that the cause of their deaths is anthrax, the PMG said, although USPS doesn't have confirmed tests yet from the Centers for Disease Control. "Our hearts, our condolences, our prayers go out to the families," he said.
Potter also said there are several other employees who may have anthrax. "We in the Postal Service are at war," he said. "A war against terrorism. Our job is to win that war."
"An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," said Claude Allen, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who also spoke at the event, aired live from Headquarters on USPS TV. "An attack on a postal worker is an attack on every citizen in this country," Allen said.
Potter said that USPS is engaged in simultaneous efforts on three fronts to combat the threat - education, investigation and intervention.
He said USPS is continually updating employees through a series of standup talks and through informational visits by medical experts with employees. He said a postcard with information about what to look for in suspicious letters and packages is on the way to every home and business in America.
He also said that a "Suspicious Mail Alert" poster and a video is being distributed to thousands of mail rooms - both in the Postal Service and at American businesses. The poster also will be displayed in Post Offices lobbies nationwide.
Potter said the Inspection Service and all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are working together to find those who have sent anthrax through the mail. "We're offering a $1 million reward," he said. "We want the public to help us find the perpetrators of these crimes."
And he said USPS is aggressively pursuing anthrax hoaxes that cause fear in people and divert valuable resources away that could be used to bring criminals to justice.
The PMG said USPS will be investing heavily in technology to sanitize the mail. He cited equipment already available that uses irradiation to kill bacteria. "We're looking to buy our first piece of equipment today."
In closing, he again offered condolences to the family members of the two employees who died. "Our prayers are with you."
"This is personal," he said in conclusion. "We've lost two of our own."
U.S. Government Website