Bacteria-laced white powder in Pine County courthouse envelopes - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

White powder in Pine County courthouse envelopes contained bacteria

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  • Pine County man arrested in white powder mailing, fake bombs

    Pine County man arrested in white powder mailing, fake bombs

    Friday, December 13 2013 10:13 AM EST2013-12-13 15:13:47 GMT
    A 45-year-old Pine County man has been taken into custody in connection with the November mailing of several envelopes that contained mostly harmless bacteria in the form of a white powder.
    A 45-year-old Pine County man has been taken into custody in connection with the November mailing of several envelopes that contained mostly harmless bacteria in the form of a white powder.
PINE CITY, Minn. (KMSP) -

White powder found in 6 envelopes sent to the Pine County courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 19 tested negative for substances used in bioterrorism, but the letters did contain two kinds of Bacillus bacteria.

The bacteria, which occurs naturally in the environment, is not particularly harmful.

Bacillus Thuringiensis has no adverse health effects and Bacillus Cereus produces symptoms similar to food poisoning, like diarrhea and vomiting.

The fact there were only two strains of bacteria in the white powder means someone was able to cultivate it. That is one reason the FBI is still investigating the source of the powder.

Video report:
http://bit.ly/17Pm9YP

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 6 envelopes were addressed to two members of Congress and several members of the media. Those incidents of bioterrorism used anthrax, which killed 5 people. This case in Pine County is not anthrax, but the implicit threat has the attention of the FBI.

MINNESOTA DEPT. OF HEALTH STATEMENT

"On Tuesday, the Pine County Courthouse received six letters that were found to contain an unknown powdery substance. Law enforcement officials transported the letters to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Public Health Laboratory for testing. MDH tests ruled out bioterrorism organisms under standard protocols established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Pine County officials were told of these results.

After this initial screening, the MDH laboratory ran additional tests in an attempt to identify the substance. Those tests indicated the presence of one particular kind of Bacillus bacteria, but the tests were not able to differentiate between related species called Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus.

Both bacteria occur naturally in the environment and are often found in the soil and on plants. They are very closely related and can be difficult to tell apart. While testing will continue to determine which kind of bacteria was present in the letters, neither is considered a significant health risk based on the facts of this situation. Studies have not found adverse health effects from Bacillus thuringiensis. People who consume food contaminated with Bacillus cereus may experience foodborne illness symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting – usually within 24-48 hours of exposure. In addition, someone with a recent eye injury could possibly experience additional eye irritation from exposure to Bacillus cereus. Other types of exposure to this kind of bacteria would not be expected to have health effects.

People in the Pine County Courthouse on Tuesday were advised to contact their doctor if they had any unusual health symptoms, and to further reduce their potential exposure by washing their clothes and showering. There are no additional recommendations at this time. As always, people who have questions or concerns are encouraged to talk with their doctor or clinic.

State and local health officials will be sharing information including final test results once available. The process is expected to take two weeks."

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