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Anthrax scare at LHSC
By Jessica Leeder
In two separate incidents involving anthrax scares, police issued an arrest warrant for one man and a section of a London hospital was evacuated yesterday.
On Tuesday, the London Fire Department secured a suspicious package from a residence in Middlesex Centre, west of London and transported it to Toronto for examination by the Ministry of Health after eight residents of the home were sent to hospital for decontamination processes.
While tests concluded the package was harmless, a police investigation ensued. A warrant was subsequently issued for the arrest of Peter Sallabank, 55, of London, whom police suspect of initiating an anthrax hoax.
According to published reports, Sallabank left for a two-week vacation one day after the envelope was received at the residence. Upon his return, Sallabank will be charged with mischief.
In the second incident, a hospital ward was closed off when one person came in contact with a package of suspicious white powder.
Nancy Lawrence, spokesperson for the London Health Sciences Centre, confirmed a small section of the fourth floor at the Victoria campus of the LHSC was closed.
Lawrence said six people in total were undergoing decontamination at the hospital. The package was removed by the London Police, who are currently conducting a risk assessment of its content and the affected area.
"Everyone has deemed the situation to be extremely low risk and no patients came into contact with the powder," she said.
Deborah McCutcheon, spokesperson for London Fire Services, said the fire department did not respond to the incident. McCutcheon said the fire department only responds to incidents deemed high risk by police.
LFS responded to an incident earlier this week outside London, but she would not divulge the specifics of the incident, McCutcheon said.
Ministry of Health press secretary Gord Haugh said their office has handled 69 anthrax cases over the past weekend, all of which tested negative.
"Not all of the cases were hoaxes some people have a genuine concern. I just wish they'd use their intellect a bit more, like in the case when a woman called 911 to report a strange white substance on her baby's changing table.
"The public needs to be better informed," he said.
with files from Joel Brown, Kristina Lundblad and Canadian Press