Anthrax scare in Australia

Police in Brisbane, Australia, have determined that white powder found inside an envelope by a medical staffer was not anthrax as originally feared.

A member of Queensland Health, the Australian province’s public health service, opened the letter while inside an office building in the city’s Bowen Hills area, according to

No one was reported injured, but first responders were called to the scene. Police and members of the fire service conducted a brief investigation of the incident and left.

Australia is no stranger to anthrax hoaxes, but they do not occur with the same frequency as in the United States.

In the weeks following the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, Australia reported a total of 16 scares involving anthrax or other biological agents. Authorities appealed for calm and warned that anyone convicted of perpetrating a terrorist hoax faced up to seven years in prison, according to

In 2005, an envelope containing a white powder was sent to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra. The powder contained bacteria of the bacillus family, of which anthrax is a member. It was later determined to be harmless, but the embassy staff was quarantined for 12 hours and the was embassy closed for two days while it was determined that anthrax was not present, according to

In January, a taxation office in downtown Penrith was closed after the discovery of a white powder as part of a mail delivery. At least 700 people were evacuated from the building and anyone who came into contact with it was treated.

While there is always a chance that the white powder in such cases is anthrax or another biological agent, most of the incidents turn out to be harmless.