Archive for Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Vet clinic receives suspicious substance

November 7, 2001

A suspicious substance that was left at a business in Basehor has tested negative for the anthrax bacteria, Leavenworth County officials said.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, a package with no return address was found at the Basehor Veterinary Clinic. Authorities said a white powdery substance emerged from the package, causing employees to complain of irritation to the mouth, lips and tongue.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department is currently investigating the origin of the package.

The package was left by an unknown person and was found wedged into a crack in the door of the clinic. The letter was then brought into the clinic and placed on a desk, when the substance emerged from the letter, without being opened, investigators said.

After the substance hit the air and the irritation began, clinic employees called 911, authorities said.

The two employees that came in contact with the substance immediately washed their hands and face. Leavenworth County officials said the protocol for anyone who has potentially handled anthrax is to use soap and water and to change clothes immediately.

The veterinary clinic was not quarantined and remained open that day.

Authorities said the substance was sent to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in Topeka for testing.

"We collected the substance and took it to the lab to determine what it is and that is where we are at right now," said John Schermbeck, Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department detective.

Although there have been no confirmed cases of the anthrax bacteria found in Leavenworth County, officials took several precautions in dealing with the package.

Leavenworth County Emergency Management coordinator Chuck Magaha said the letter was removed by the city of Leavenworth hazardous materials team.

The Basehor Police Department and the Fairmount Township Fire Department were also involved in the containment of the package.

Since confirmed cases of anthrax have been discovered across the country and most recently in Kansas City, local officials have dealt with several cases of suspicious packages.

Magaha said there have been at least 15 such cases, in both the cities of Leavenworth as well as Leavenworth County.

"I can tell you that 99.9 percent of them have turned out to be nothing serious," Magaha said.

And while the cases have not turned up any of the anthrax bacteria, Magaha said the cases are all treated seriously.

"Each agency has responded in the same way, real low key," he said.

Although the substance found at the clinic caused the irritation to the employees, Leavenworth County Health officials said the substance could have been a number of different things.

Most likely, the substance was some kind of ammonia-based product, and therefore would cause the symptoms reported by the employees, health department officials said.

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