local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Gary Carr...The Carr Man!

Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

For the week of  October 24 - 30, 2001


Anthrax threat 
raises concerns

County, state prepare for 
potential bio/chem assault

"People in Idaho need to be concerned. I don’t think they need to be afraid."

- Bill Bishop, Bureau of Hazardous Materials director

Express Staff Writer

Idaho appears to be an unlikely target for a biological, chemical or weapons of mass destruction attack. But emergency planners in the Wood River Valley and throughout the state are nevertheless treating the possibility of an attack seriously.

Following recent anthrax mailings on the East Coast, county and city governments are dusting off their terrorism response plans drafted in response to the Y2K scares before the year 2000. Ketchum Fire Department chief Tom Johnson, left, talks last week with Ketchum Mayor Dave Hutchinson about the plan. Express photo by Willy Cook.

The recent mailing of anthrax-laced packages on the East Coast has spurred a St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center inventory review. State and local healthcare providers have held special training sessions in recent weeks. And, local governments are dusting off their terrorism response plans drafted in response to the Y2K scares before the year 2000.

In the last two weeks, 51 people in Idaho have reported a potential biological or chemical threat to the Bureau of Hazardous Materials office in Boise, said Bill Bishop, the bureau’s director. One call per year is usual. All the calls were false alarms, and none were from Blaine County.

The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office has received a half dozen calls from people reporting potential threats in the last two weeks, but so far no real threat has evolved, said Sheriff Walt Femling.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that a Twin Falls resident was inside the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., when an anthrax-laden package was opened there on Oct. 15. Anthrax cannot be passed directly from one human to another.

"People in Idaho need to be concerned. I don’t think they need to be afraid," said Bishop.

Ensuring that crews can properly identify a threat, communicate with relevant agencies and treat victims has been the focus of planning.

Anthrax is "not some alien fungus," said Dr. Keith Sivertson, St. Luke’s medical director for emergency services. "You approach it like any bacterial illness. This is not rocket science." Diagnosis and treatment of the potentially deadly disease involve standard blood cultures, chest X-rays and antibiotics, he said.

Anthrax is the "disease du jour," he said. But healthcare providers are preparing for a wide range of potential threats, including salmonella, smallpox and virulent strains of influenza.

St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center reported Monday that it had expanded training of nurses, doctors and other caregivers for a potential biological or chemical incident response. The Idaho South Central District Health Department, based in Twin Falls, provided the training, which also focused on ways the hospital could access additional resources, if needed.

The hospital reviewed its inventory of drugs and other supplies and reported that state and federal resources would be available to help cover any shortage.

The health department in Twin Falls and the state epidemiologist’s office in Boise completed and distributed guidelines this month for healthcare providers to follow when responding to anthrax concerns. The 11-page document describes symptoms, testing procedures and agencies to contact.

The sheriff’s office, which is acting as a central clearing house of information where other county and city agencies can communicate, plans to begin posting community safety updates on its Web site this week at www.blainesheriff.com.

Residents throughout the country should receive a post card from the United States Postal Service this week with information about how to recognize and respond to suspicious mail.

Danger signs include excessive amounts of tape, oily substances, and restrictive endorsements such as "personal" or "confidential," as well as the commonly reported white powder and brown granular substances.

Suspicious packages might also have "protruding wires" or might make a "ticking sound," states a memo the Ketchum mayor’s office distributed to Ketchum city employees last week.

Emergency planners say suspicious packages should not be handled in any way, but should be immediately reported through a 911 call. People who have touched the package should immediately wash their hands.

Depending on the threat, local law enforcement or firefighters could call in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state epidemiologist, a regional response team with hazardous materials training, the Bureau of Hazardous Materials and the Idaho State Police.

The Ketchum Fire Department has special clothing designed to protect emergency crews against biological and chemical agents and has trained its firefighters in handling dangerous substances. State teams trained in handling weapons of mass destruction are also available.

Local emergency crews are trained in cleanup procedures, but owners of buildings might be required to handle the work themselves, with government direction, depending on the nature of the incident, Bishop said.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.