Volume 95, Issue 24

Tuesday, October 16, 2001
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The world at war

BOG candidates speak to the masses

Experts say no need for Anthrax paranoia

Techies get university of their own

Kidnappings and flaming tires cap week of crime

News Briefs

Editor's Note

UWO United Way kicks-off

Experts say no need for Anthrax paranoia

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Writer

Although security and fear are on the rise, Western's academic community urges caution, not paranoia, in the wake of a series of anthrax scares in the United States.

The deadly disease that has spread through the U.S. postal system in several incidents – one resulting in the death of a Florida man – has increased concerns regarding mail security in Canada.

Given the nature of the anthrax threat, Canada Post is taking necessary precautions according to Tom Creech, a communications officer for the mail carrier.

"We have a number of procedures to deal with items of a hazardous nature," he said, adding Canada Post is advising employees what identifies a suspicious package.

"We have to be aware of what is taking place south of the border – we are going to err on the side of caution," Creech said.

The new threat of biological terrorism has only compounded reported anxiety since the events of Sept. 11, said Western political science professor Peter Langille.

"There should be concern, but [there's] no justification for paranoia," Langille said. "There is no need for new government legislation to address anthrax, particularly because the threat has so far remained below the border."

Anthrax can occur in three different forms with the most common occurring when the bacteria infects a cut in a person's skin, said Sara Galsworthy, a microbiology and immunology professor.

The deadliest form is pulmonary anthrax, which occurs when spores of the bacteria are inhaled. Gastrointestinal anthrax is acquired through ingestion of contaminated meat and is the rarest form, she added.

According to Galsworthy, an anthrax attack in Canada is certainly a possibility.

"But you have to take into account the concept of relative risk. The chances of being subjected to anthrax is very small," she said.

"Spores [of anthrax] can be found naturally in soil and they can survive for decades," she said. However, she said, it is important to remember anthrax is not an infectious disease and cannot be spread from person to person.

Cases such as large amounts of anthrax being released into the air remain highly unlikely, Galsworthy said.

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