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Anthrax scare over, state employees called back to work

An investigation of a suspicious-looking letter to the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles concluded Monday afternoon that there was "no credible threat," and more than 1,000 state employees were ordered back to their jobs.

Agency spokeswoman Leslie Palmer said experts from the state Department of Health examined the contents of an envelope found in the mailroom.

"There was nothing in the envelope," Palmer said. "It was not considered a credible threat."

The agency's headquarters at 2900 Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee was evacuated Monday and 1,100 workers were ordered to leave the premises as firefighters surrounded the main parking lot with yellow crime scene tape. Motorists seeking to schedule driving tests or to apply for car registration tags or vehicle titles were turned away for several hours.

Seven employees who work in a second-floor records unit where the letter was discovered were ordered to stay at their desks while hazardous materials experts put them through decontamination procedure, including taking showers. Firefighters were seen exiting the building and hosing themselves off next to a children's plastic swimming pool.

"We're going to decontaminate those seven employees individually," said Lt. Mike Bellamy of the Tallahassee Fire Department. "Nobody is complaining of any type of ailment. There are no injuries. Individuals are holding up very well."

The letter was written to Julie Jones, executive director of the Cabinet-level agency. "When they opened it up, it threatened that the letter had white powder in it and said 'This is anthrax and I hope you die,' " Jones said.

Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease caused by spore-forming bacterium. It occurs most commonly in wild and domestic animals and can occur in humans exposed to infected animals. Anthrax spores have been used as a bioterrorist weapon.

Follow the developing story here.