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For Release:
September 16, 2010

Poonam Alaigh, MD, MSHCPM, FACP

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DHSS Laboratory, Emergency Preparedness Staff Receive FBI Commendation for Role in White Powder Incidents


Six Department of Health and Senior Services staff members were commended by the FBI today for their work in response to incidents of a white powder being mailed to business and government offices, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh announced today.

Scott Nawrocki, Supervising Special Agent for the FBI Newark Domestic Terrorism Squad, presented the laboratory and emergency preparedness staff members with commendations on behalf of FBI Director Robert Mueller.  Testing in the DHSS BioThreat Response Laboratories showed that none of the more than 200 letters sent over the last year contained bioterrorism agents such as anthrax.

Commissioner Alaigh also commended the staff for their work.

“The quick and efficient response to these incidents demonstrates how our Department’s staff is continuously working to keep New Jersey residents safe from all public health emergencies,” said Dr. Alaigh. “Governor Christie and I are very proud of staff receiving commendations from the FBI.”

The following staff received FBI commendations:

  • Rachel Meleg of Bordentown, Laboratory Service Worker
  • Sarmila DasGupta, Ph.D. of East Brunswick, Research Scientist
  • Ondrea Shone of Hamilton, Research Scientist
  • Sherman Hom, Ph.D. of Montclair, Research Scientist
  • Nelson Delgado, Ph.D. of Pennsauken, Research Scientist and BioThreat Response Laboratory Coordinator, and
  • Jim Langenbach of Bridgewater, operations manager for the Division of Health Infrastructure Preparedness and Emergency Response

Over the past year, lab staff responded to two major “white powder” incidents – the Chase Bank Letters that were sent to banks and financial institutions across the country and a second incident that targeted state and local government offices around the state and country.

The DHSS BioThreat Response Laboratory is the only New Jersey lab in the national Laboratory Response Network that can perform tests to detect and confirm the presence of a threat agent, allowing rapid local response to an emergency.



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