Pineville, Louisiana VA center briefly closed after white powder found

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Alexandria, Louisiana, closed part of its Pineville medical center for approximately four hours on Monday after patients and employees were exposed to an unknown “white powder and greenish substance.”

An employee at the VA’s business office received mail containing the substance on Friday filed it away. After showing flu-like symptoms over the weekend, the employee reported the package to her supervisor on Monday morning, The News Star reports.

Officials called in the VA’s emergency preparedness decontamination team who sealed off the first floor of the hospital. Hazmat teams from the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police assisted, along with members of the Louisiana Department of Public Health and the Alpine Fire Department.

A total of 45 staff members and patients who were potentially exposed to the substance went through a precautionary decontamination, The News Star reports.

The package was a typical VA income update that didn’t have a threatening letter or anything else suspicious. VA officials sent the package to a Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals lab for testing and hope to get a determination about the substance as early as Tuesday morning.

The police department does not believe the substance in the letter to have been anthrax.

“There is no indication through our investigation that leads us to believe that this is a true anthrax incident,” Scott Moreau, a Louisiana State Police spokesman, said, according to The News Star. “It is believed to be a non-event.”