itself against bioterrorism
Idaho Fire Chiefs
Association addresses issue
Express Staff Writer
communities have improved their capability to react to a bioterrorist
attack, but are not yet where they should be, several speakers told the
Idaho Association of Fire Chiefs at their annual conference last week at
Dirk Kempthorne, left, receives an honorary fire chiefís helmet
Friday at the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association convention at the Sun Valley
Elkhorn Resort. Ron Clark, Twin Falls fire chief and outgoing president of
the association, presented the helmet, saying that Kempthorne had been
"extremely helpful to the fire departments and fire chiefs of
Idaho." Kempthorne accepted the helmet appreciatively, but added,
"You know what this did to Mike Dukakis." Express photos by
annihilation of much of al-Qaidaís terrorist network since Sept. 11,
serious threats remain, speakers pointed out during the conference April
president believes there will still be a series of attacks that will hit
America and Americans will still be murdered," Idaho Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne said, speaking of a recent meeting he had with President George
State Epidemiologist Leslie Tengelson said biological agents are one
weapon of choice for any such attack. She said such weapons have been used
since ancient times. In the Middle Ages, plague-infected bodies were
catapulted inside town walls. During World War II, the Japanese army
dropped plague-infected fleas over Manchuria.
at the Idaho Fire Chiefs Convention at Elkhorn review new
fire-fighting equipment on display. Express photos by Willy Cook
States destroyed its stockpiles of biological weapons in 1969, and signed
an international treaty in 1972 not to develop any more. However, she
said, Iraq appears to have produced some.
bioterrorist event could have catastrophic public health
consequences," Tengelson said.
three types of delivery systems can be used with biological weaponsóby
aerosol, resulting in inhalation; by contamination of food or water, and
by topical contamination of skin.
said two likely biological agents for weapons use are anthrax and
smallpox. Anthrax spores, she said, are easy to produce from natural
sources since the disease is fairly common among domestic animals. She
said the only publicly disclosed storage locations for smallpox viruses
are the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and with the Russian
government in Moscow. However, she said, "itís pretty clear that
when the Soviet Union collapsed, some of those vials walked off." She
said Iraq, North Korea and Libya probably have smallpox stockpiles.
the last known natural case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977.
she said, is very contagious, and there is no known treatment. Many
Americans were vaccinated against smallpox when they were children, but
the vaccine is effective for only about 10 years. However, she said,
another dose of vaccine would be effective if given within four days of
exposure. She said 15 million such doses are stored at the CDC, and those
doses could probably be diluted five times. She said a company in France
also has announced that it has 85 million doses.
said the inhaled variety of anthrax is the most dangerous, in fact 100
percent fatal if not treated. However, she said, it is not contagious.
said there are now eight National Pharmaceutical Stockpiles around the
United States where drugs for potential bioterrorism agents are stored,
and development of four more such stockpiles is underway. However, she
said Idaho has not yet developed a plan for distributing those drugs to
communities in the event of an epidemic.
said hospitals should be making plans for local distribution of the drugs.
But a spokeswoman for St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center said the
hospital would depend on state authorities do that job.
said Idaho just received about $8 million of federal money to improve its
preparedness to respond to bioterrorism events and outbreaks of infectious
interview, Jane Smith, bureau chief and state registrar for health policy
and vital statistics, said the money will be used to upgrade surveillance
and investigation capability, improve labs and provide better antibiotics
and vaccine distribution.
a fantastic opportunity to get our public health infrastructure built
up," Smith said.
said the state has a centralized communications system for reporting
suspicious disease outbreaks, and her office has the legal right to
inspect the records of hospital patients, "but right now, we have
some really wimpy laws on quarantine." She said Idaho Attorney
General Al Lance is investigating possible legislation to allow
authorities to require people infected with a deadly disease to remain
Jack Riggs, appointed by Kempthorne to head Idahoís Biosecurity Council,
said there were 150 cases of suspicious white powder reported in Idaho
last fall. He said that in each of those case, authorities responded,
tested the powders and concluded there was no danger within one day.
would say that our system responded quite well," Riggs said. "We
can respond if itís an isolated event. The problem would be if itís a
A case of
widespread contamination, Riggs said, could produce panic among a public
demanding immediate treatment.
really think we have the potential for a riot," he said.
contention was supported by U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who related
the events that occurred after the first case of anthrax contamination was
discovered in the office of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., at the Senateís
Hart Office Building. He said the line for testing for anthrax infection
reached all the way around the large building where the testing was taking
place, due to the fact that many neighborhood residents demanded to be
was a relatively small, isolated event, yet there was a near panic in the
greater environment on Capitol Hill," Craig said.
He said the
Hart Office Building was evacuated and a cleanup cost $14 million.
percent of the U.S. Senate had been shut down by the exposure," he
He said the
attack demonstrated that there was no central communications system or
evacuation plan for the Capitol.