USPS Gets New System for Detecting Biohazards in Mail

The Advanced Facer Canceler System is the heart of the United States Postal Service's biohazard detection system. The AFCS is designed to detect anthrax by analyzing the air around stamped letters.

Joseph Breckenridge, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, says, "We're going to be able to take action to prevent it from getting out into the community. Also, we'll be able to treat or employees to give them the antibiotics that they need."

If anthrax is detected, an alarm sounds and the building is evacuated. Inspectors send samples to Jacksonville to confirm the results.

In October 2001, anthrax was discovered in a building in Boca Raton, Florida. Five people were killed and 22 infected.

Philip Lee confirmed the first case in that incident. He supports the AFCS.

Philip Lee, a microbiologist, says, "It has a very high confidence level as far as if it were to give a positive alert that anthrax were indeed in the mail, then there's a high probability that that may prove to be the case when we confirm it in the laboratory."

Breckenridge says only the mail in the infected building will be held up.

Because the AFCS detects in near real-time, residents are assured that mail already delivered is anthrax-free.

Bio-hazard detection systems are now installed at 107 mail processing plants. Eventually, there will be 282 at key facilities.