No Anthrax Found in Suspect UNEP Mail

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 19, 2001 (ENS) - A suspicious letter, sent to the United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters in Nairobi, has failed to test positive for anthrax, the UN agency announced today.

The letter, which had been sent to a member of the staff, was received on Wednesday and handed over to the Ministry of Health in Kenya for scientific analysis.

UNEP

UNEP Headquarters in the Gigiri section of Nairobi where the suspicious mail was received (Photos courtesy IISD/Linkages)
The letter bore Pakistani stamps and had a hand written envelope. It contained a white powder, arousing staff suspicions that it might be contaminated with anthrax spores. But the scientific analysis has found that the envelope contained harmless crystals.

A second item, a parcel sent to the United Nations and received on Tuesday, has also tested negative for anthrax.

Klaus Toepfer, director general of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, said, "We are relieved that the tests have proven negative. But we cannot be complacent about the situation. There is clearly a worldwide concern about so-called bioterrorism and we cannot ignore it. The safety of our employees is of utmost concern."

"No one here at the UN has been found to have suffered any ill-health as a result of the incident," said Toepfer.

UN staffers around the world are on high alert for contaminated mail since the discovery of anthrax contaminated itesm mailed to NBC, CBS, and other media outlets and legislators in the United States over the past month.

Toepfer

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer
"In common with many organizations and businesses around the world, the United Nations here in Nairobi has been alert to strange looking mail," Toepfer said. "It is a credit to the staff members concerned that they identified the suspicious looking letter and acted promptly by contacting United Nations security. They passed the item on in a sealed container to the Kenyan health authorities who, on our behalf, have carried out the tests. I would like to thank the Kenyan government for their swift and effective response."

The UNEP headquarters office has adopted new, precautionary, health measures based on scientific and medical advice. Anyone who is within six feet of a suspicious letter or parcel will be prescribed antibiotics and the room cleansed in accordance with recommended safety practices.