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FBI terrorism unit investigating possible virus-contaminated money

PoliceOne notes that this incident serves as a reminder of several good rules of thumb:

1. Always wear gloves -- and as recommended in light of this incident, a protective mask -- whenever investigating a drug-related scene. In addition to the possibility that materials you're handling may have been intentionally contaminated, drug scenes-particularly Meth labs-can be rife with other toxic substances that can do damage if touched or inhaled.

2. Resist the temptation to touch your eyes, nose, mouth or food items before washing your hands. Also remember that gloves don't repel germs, they simply keep them away from your skin. Don't rub your eyes, etc. with gloved hands either and be sure to wash your hands after taking them off. To avoid having to wait for access to soap and water, carry a container of sanitizing gel.

3. Be sure to very securely bandage any cuts or scratches on your hands and other areas of exposed skin when on duty. The virus mentioned in the following story can lurk on the surface of the skin then enter the system through these vulnerable areas. As you know, cuts and scratches open you to other infectious threats.

4. Carry a box of disposable gloves in your vehicle and a pair or two in your pocket or on your belt so you can throw out the contaminated pair.
-- Introduction by Contributing Editor Scott Buhrmaster

Also Read This PoliceOne Exclusive Report:
Crucial Patrol-Level Safety Reminders For Approaching Unknown Substances

A federal-level warning has been issued recommending that officers should take extra precaution and wear protective masks when handling suspected drug money, now more than ever.

The FBI terrorism unit is investigating a case that they took over from the Pennsylvania State Police who began investigating a bizarre criminal plot involving a virus, suspected drug money, and the Russian mob in Northeast Philadelphia.

The terrorism unit is trying to determine whether or not a virus was actually placed over money to protect the interest of the Russian mob.

In January, Pennsylvania State Troopers intercepted $250,000 during a routine traffic stop. The alleged drug money, which had been sealed in plastic, was being driven from Columbus, Ohio to Northeast Philadelphia.

According to law enforcement sources, after counting the seized cash, troopers began feeling ill and one trooper was even hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

The cash counter revealed the presence of a toxin derived from the bacteria staphylococcus.

Dr. Joseph Smith, a local terrorism expert said it may be a new application of terrorism, although this time it was used as a deterrent among thieves: "I am not that surprised, this is the nature of terrorism. By its nature, you have to say we must always be mindful and careful of new applications."

However, FBI Spokesperson Jerri Williams said "this is under investigation and we have no information to provide to the public at this time."

While law enforcement says there are no known instances where the toxin has been used with malicious intent, Dr. Smith says he would not be surprised if criminals are now employing some of the same tools as terrorists: "This is one of the unique natures of terrorism. It’s different than your conventional type of warfare."

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