OLEAN — A day after numerous town of Olean residents complained about receiving mail smeared with blood, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) spokeswoman Karen Mazurkiewicz apologized to those who were disgusted or angered by their daily trip to the mailbox.
A mail carrier, who has yet to be identified, cut his hand on the job Tuesday, she said.
The bulk of the reports centered around South Avenue, with others coming mostly on social media from East River Road and Steam Valley Road entering Portville — a route spanning roughly 5 miles.
A Steam Valley Road resident noted Tuesday she spoke with the mail carrier, who had said he hurt his hand in an accident with a truck.
“One of our vehicles was involved with a swipe … with another commercial vehicle, and what was damaged was the mirror on the side,” said Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the Western New York district of USPS. “The employee went to adjust the mirror and cut his finger. It wasn’t anything (then) that needed medical treatment.”
The carrier, she added, believed the bleeding had stopped and wasn’t aware it continued to smudge onto parcels.
Several residents then called the Olean postmaster to complain.
“She called the carrier and requested he come back to the office to treat the finger,” Mazurkiewicz said. “... The blood on the mail is not anything that we would want to have happen, and we sincerely apologize that customers were inconvenienced by that. Generally, the policy is that if there is an accident that needs medical treatment, it should be handled immediately.”
If a carrier needed to be removed from a route, a replacement would be found quickly to finish the job, she added.
By late Tuesday afternoon, South Avenue residents Jeff Tetlak and Bryan Wickes were cleaning their mailboxes with bleach. They decried being put at risk to contract blood-borne diseases like AIDS and hepatitis.
“It’s disgusting. … We’re not happy with this,” Tetlak said that day. “People who touched it might have to be tested for something.”
Mazurkiewicz said the health risk would be minimal, “especially if it’s dried blood.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Any blood spills — including dried blood, which can still be infectious — should be cleaned using a dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water.”
The U.S. Postal Service has “no indication” the mail carrier involved has “any significant illness” capable of transmission through blood, Mazurkiewicz said.
“We did touch base with our medical staff just to get an idea of what the protocol is in that regard,” she added, noting residents can contact the post office with additional questions. “I don’t want to discount that people have legitimate concerns.”
She suggested residents discard soiled mail within a plastic bag in an appropriate trash receptacle.
There was no indication disciplinary action would be taken against the mail carrier.
Mazurkiewicz said the accident with the other commercial vehicle is being handled with that company, which was not named.
(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)