Volume 95, Issue 17

Friday, September 28, 2001
 
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NEWS

No Sweat! Students sew for a cause

Locals fear planes, love trains

Contentious debate in BOG

Q&A with MSA president

Community ties can survive terrorism

Suspicious inquiries reinforce fears of bio-warfare

Suspicious inquiries reinforce fears of bio-warfare

By Leah Teitelbaum
Gazette Writer


Reports of suspicious inquiries into the use of some Canadian farm equipment are reinforcing fears of biological warfare within North America.

According to published media reports, farmers in Western Canada were approached by suspicious individuals asking about their crop dusting planes shortly before the Sept. 11 attack on the United States.

Since then, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has both instituted and then later lifted a ban on crop dusters in American airspace.

Mark Sears, chair of the University of Guelph's department of environmental biology, said crop dusting planes could potentially be used to distribute bacterial or viral toxins, however, this is an unlikely possibility.

In addition, a number of army surplus stores in London are reporting increased sales of gas masks and other protective gear. Forest City Surplus has sold over 400 gas masks since Sept. 11, according to inventory manager, Mike Wismer, who added protective chemical suits have also begun to sell.

Although purchases of this nature may not be rational, it provides the consumer with a perceived sense of control, according to David Dozois, an associate professor of psychology at Western.

"People are experiencing dissonance between the general view that the world is a safe place and the terror of Sept. 11," he said.

Sara Galsworthy, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Western, said in the event of a biological attack, most preventative measures would be ineffective.

Airborne diseases, like smallpox and anthrax, would be the most common agents used as biological weapons, she said. These diseases are infectious several days before symptoms arise, she explained, adding the owners of gas masks would already be infected before the chemical was even detected.

London pharmacist Mark Delamere, reinforced the difficulty of protecting oneself against biological weapons. "I am unaware of anything that could be consumed to prevent the effects of biological warfare that is available to the general public," he said.




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Copyright The Gazette 2001