Forum addresses anthrax worries

By Tyler Vincent

To try and combat the recent wave of anthrax fear that currently is gripping the nation, both NIU and the DeKalb County Health Department will host a free public forum on bioterrorism Wednesday.

The forum, which will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center, will feature guest speakers such as Roman Golash of the special bacteriology and bioterrorism unit of the Illinois Department of Public Health, DeKalb Fire Chief Pete Polarek and Karen Grush, an administrator of the DeKalb County Health Department.

Organizers of the forum hope to provide the public with information about various forms of bioterrorism, and at the same time calm some of fears the public has expressed since the wave of anthrax attacks began. Speakers will address the scientific facts regarding the various agents of bioterrorism, and local and state programs trying to combat it.

Public concern over bioterrorism began Sept. 18, when envelopes containing a suspicious substance, later ruled to be anthrax, were delivered to the New York Post and NBC News, both in New York City.

Since that time, three people have died from anthrax exposure, and among those being treated for the bacteria are various postal workers and 28 people in the offices of senators Tom Daschle and Russ Feingold. Employees at NBC and CBS also have been diagnosed with various forms of anthrax. Attacks have been primarily limited to the East Coast.

Confiscated letters, including those addressed to NBC and Daschle’s office, reveal crudely written letters with statements such as “Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great.” The FBI announced Friday that it was all but certain that the contaminated letters were written by an adult male with laboratory experience.

A similar public health scare occurred in the Chicagoland area in 1982, when seven people died after taking extra strength Tylenol that had been tainted with potassium cyanide.