Employees find white powder in envelope
By Jason McFarley
Questionable substances inside packages last week at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's raised concerns that proved false alarms, officials at both schools said.
Test results from an Indianapolis lab Monday revealed no traces of anthrax in a package that a LeMans Hall staff member handled Oct. 23, said Keith Dennis, Saint Mary's vice president for finance and administration. The news followed fear at the College that the residence hall worker was exhibiting the characteristic flu-like symptoms associated with anthrax.
"It turned out to be an unfortunate coincidence," Dennis said Monday. "She just happened to have handled the loose packing materials inside the box at the same time that she came down with strep throat."
An e-mail Thursday alerted students that the LeMans staffer reported to Saint Mary's Security Wednesday that she had opened a package containing suspicious material. Officials isolated the package and then had it removed by a St. Joseph County Sheriff's hazardous materials team that shipped it to Indianapolis for testing, Linda Timm, vice president for student affairs, wrote in the page-long e-mail.
"Precautions were taken immediately," Timm wrote. "The staff member is receiving appropriate medical attention."
However, the woman's physician didn't connect her illness with exposure to anthrax and treated her for strep throat only, Dennis acknowledged.
He said the incident was the first anthrax-scare case at Saint Mary's since the outbreak of nationwide fear of the bacterial disease began this month.
Notre Dame officials, however, have responded to several reports of suspicious packages in the last two weeks alone, said Mike McCauslin, the University's assistant director of risk management and safety. All have been false alarms.
The latest came Wednesday when Notre Dame Security/Police alerted risk management personnel that a package, double-wrapped in clear plastic was leaking a white granulated substance.
"We removed it [from the Notre Dame post office] and opened it under appropriate conditions," McCauslin said.
Inside, officials found laundry detergent and other items — an apparent care package shipped from home for a Chinese student.
Notre Dame and Saint Mary's administrators continue to urge the campus communities to report to authorities any suspect mail or packages. Both schools have outlined mail-handling procedures that instruct students to be aware of strange odors, illegible handwriting and bulky contents, among other warning signs.
All News Stories for Tuesday, October 30, 2001