Archive for Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Opinion:Cautiousness should not become panic

November 7, 2001

Remember the mail before Sept. 11, and the impending anthrax scares. The postal carrier delivered the usual credit card applications, coupons for a pizza delivery special, the occasional letter from family and maybe the wedding announcement of a friend's child without someone being suspicious.

Those were the days when postal workers weren't seen wearing gloves and masks to sort mail and the tiniest sight of white powder or dirt on an envelop wouldn't have been thought of a second time by a resident.

Today, an unsealed envelope has caused people to panic. Don't think this pandemonium only pertains to the East or West coasts. Local authorities have been receiving calls on possible anthrax encounters every day.

Police in Basehor, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville have received calls from residents who thought an opened letter might have the anthrax bacteria to one person thinking the white powder that candy makers coat on bubble gum to keep the wrapper from sticking was a deadly bacteria.

Most likely the bombardment of daily reports on anthrax infections and scares has contributed to some people living in fear of a nationwide holocaust. This is not to say people and authorities should not be cautious.

The cautiousness can been seen in the acceleration of production of the anthrax vaccine, both for military and, possibly, civilian use. The federal government has also developed a DNA screening system, which will allow health officials to have results within hours instead of days.

People are also more accepting of the government providing safe guards from possible infections. It's a far cry from 10 years ago when during the Gulf War several military personnel were brought up on charges because they balked at taking the anthrax vaccine, claiming it could cause a number of physical problems. They thought the threat of anthrax was ridiculous and the Army was being over protective.

The Army's health experts admitted the vaccine could have serious side effects, but so could most vaccines, including those for polio and smallpox, and that not taking the vaccine could be the more dangerous action.

Today, so far there hasn't been a similar spate of refusals from anyone in the service. Maybe because the anthrax threat was just that a threat. Today it's a reality.

However, should this cause panic among the general public, no.

According to health officials, you are more likely to die from heart failure, cancer, a car accident or the flu than from anthrax.

People need to use common sense before dialing 911. If an envelop is open, it doesn't mean it has anthrax in it. If powder is pouring out of an open letter, or there is an oily substance or residue on a letter then you should be cautious. Another red flag is if the letter actually says the sender intends to kill you.

Remember, terrorists don't plan to attack Joe down the street. They usually do things in large spectacular attacks, such as the World Trade Center, to gain the world's attention.

Just remember it won't be Ed McMahon delivering the deadly bacteria in junk mail. Publisher's Clearing House would rather have you alive and paying for unwanted magazines.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.