Postal Service preparing bioterror response

The United States Postal Service has teamed up with state and local health departments to prepare for a mass distribution system by testing delivery of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medication in case of anthrax attack.

In December 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USPS to create a national dispensing model within 180 days that would allow U.S. cities to respond to a large anthrax attack, reports.

The program, known as the postal plan, uses letter carriers around the country to deliver medical countermeasures and information about how to take the medication. Since medication must be administered within 48 hours of infection, regular mail delivery would be halted and replaced with this important package.

The postal plan is currently being tested in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area within the 551 and 554 zip codes. Before the executive order, similar exercises had been performed in Philadelphia, Seattle and Boston to great success.

“The process went well, and it only took about six to nine hours for them to cover their route and make sure all those folks – the 20, 40 and 50 thousand – received their mock antibiotics in a timely fashion,” John Koerner, chief of the CBRN branch of the HHS, said, according to “The proof of concept showed that it can work.”

While most residents during an anthrax attack would receive antibiotics in a mass dispensing site, the postal plan might have to be enacted in high density zip codes to take pressure off the distribution sites.

According to the Military Vaccine Agency, an untreated inhalation of anthrax would lead to a higher than 99 percent death rate. After the antibiotics treatment is started for anthrax, it must be continued for approximately 60 days.