Good morning. As all Americans know, recent weeks have brought a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country, deadly anthrax spores sent through the U.S. mail. There's no precedent for this type of biological attack, and I'm proud of the way our law enforcement officers, our health care and postal workers, and the American people are responding in the face of this new threat.
At this point in our investigation, we have identified several different letters that contained anthrax spores. Among them were the letters mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Capitol Hill, NBC News in New York, and the New York Post newspaper. Four Americans have died as a result of these acts of terrorism. At least 13 others have developed forms of anthrax disease, either in the lungs or, less severely, on the skin.
Public health officials have acted quickly to distribute antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to anthrax. When anthrax exposure is caught early, preventative treatment is effective. Anthrax can be treated with many antibiotics, and several pharmaceutical companies have offered medicine at reduced prices. The Government is swiftly testing post offices and other sites for anthrax spores and is closing them where potential threats to health are detected. We are working to protect people based on the best information available.
And as we deal with this new threat, we are learning new information every day. Originally, experts believed the anthrax spores could not escape from sealed envelopes. We now know differently, because of cases where postal workers were exposed even though the envelopes they processed were not open. Anthrax apparently can be transferred from one letter to another, or from a letter to mail sorting equipment. But anthrax is not contagious, so it does not spread from human to human the way a cold or a flu can. Anthrax can be killed by sterilization, and the Postal Service is purchasing sterilizing equipment to be installed across the country.
More than 30 billion pieces of mail have moved through the Postal Service since September the 11th, so we believe the odds of any one piece of mail being tainted are very low. But still, people should take appropriate precautions: Look carefully at your mail before opening it; tell your doctor if you believe you may have been exposed to anthrax. An excellent summary of the symptoms of this disease can be found on the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov. Remember, doctors warn that you can put your health at risk by taking antibiotics when you don't need them, so use antibiotics only after consulting a health care professional.
If you see anything suspicious or have useful information, please contact law enforcement authorities. The Postal Service and the FBI have offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and the conviction of the anthrax terrorists.
And those who believe this is an opportunity for a prank should know that sending false alarms is a serious criminal offense. At least 20 individuals have already been arrested for anthrax hoaxes, and we will pursue anyone who tries to frighten their fellow Americans in this cruel way.
We do not yet know who sent the anthrax, whether it was the same terrorists who committed the attacks on September the 11th or whether it was the—other international or domestic terrorists. We do know that anyone who would try to infect other people with anthrax is guilty of an act of terror. We will solve these crimes, and we will punish those responsible. As we learn more about these anthrax attacks, the Government will share the confirmed and credible information we have with you. I'm proud of our citizens' calm and reasoned response to this ongoing terrorist attack.
Thank you for listening.