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The Daily Tar Heel

Local Police Investigate Package

Although officials have not linked the two, the local incident comes on the heels of two other national incidents in which packages sent via U.S. mail have tested positive for anthrax.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced Friday that an NBC employee, later reported to be Tom Brokaw's personal assistant, contracted anthrax from a letter containing white powder that was mailed to NBC in late September.

Reports also surfaced Friday that a Microsoft office in Reno, Nev., received a letter in the mail containing a substance that tested positive for anthrax.

But Chapel Hill police spokeswoman Jane Cousins refused Sunday to comment on the nature of the substance or the possibility that the powder is related to anthrax. The powder will be tested at the state public health laboratory, and test results could be available today.

As a security measure, Cousins said the regional Hazardous Material Incident Response Team was dispatched to the scene. The state and federal bureaus of investigation also were informed of the incident, she said.

At 8 p.m. Friday, a Chapel Hill resident received a letter, opened it and discovered a white powder in the envelope. Cousins said the resident sealed the letter with the white material in a plastic bag and called 911. Cousins said officials are "not releasing anything at this point to identify the location or the person" involved in the incident.

After arriving at the scene, Chapel Hill police communicated with the resident by telephone and did not immediately enter the property, according to a police press release.

Members of the response team were the first to enter the building. They decontaminated the resident and removed him, the press release states. The residence was secured as a crime scene.

To date, anthrax has affected more than 12 people in at least three different states and has been responsible for the death of one Florida man, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

Anthrax can be contracted either by being inhaled, ingested or making contact with the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

The Chapel Hill Police Department's press release states that officials believe there is a high probability the material in the letter was harmless. Officials have no suspects in the incident.

Cousins urged residents to look out for unexpected mail, mail from an unknown source or a return address that does not match the postmark. She said residents should call 911 if they open a letter or package containing something that could be a contaminant.

"We don't want people to take any chances."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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