Hospital, emergency officials attend bioterrorism seminar
In the case of any kind of bioterrorism attack, communication is key to defending the public, said Susan Bowler, a registered nurse at the Visiting Nurse Association who attended a two-day bioterrorism seminar Oct. 7 and 8 in Vail.
“As health officials, we need to put out a message clearly without scaring the public,” Bowler said. “The way the public perceives a risk determines how they will react to it.”
Bowler, Beka Warren, a patient care planner at The Memorial Hospital, and Clyde Anderson, Moffat County emergency manager, attended the seminar.
Bowler said ongoing communication between agencies also was stressed at the seminar as a way to be prepared for a bioterrorism event, an area in which she said she thinks Moffat County is doing well.
“I think Northwest Colorado is ahead of a lot of places,” she said. “We’ve been getting together and talking about plans and many places have not. I think we’re doing a really good job as a community.”
It’s important the community be educated about anthrax, smallpox and other potential terrorist agents before they are used, she said.
“It’s important that we as a public health department teach people what could happen in order to reassure them,” she said. “Then they know we have already thought it through.”
Bowler said she left the seminar with less fear about terrorists inflicting smallpox on United States residents.
“I don’t see it as an affective method of bioterrorism because it is not very efficient,” she said. “People have to be in a small area exposed to smallpox for several hours. For example, if terrorists decided to sprinkle it over a mall, very few people in the mall are going to get it.”
Clyde Anderson said he learned more about the threat of terrorists infecting United States cattle with foot and mouth disease.
Foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious disease that moves rapidly through cattle.
“It is one of the most contagious known diseases,” Anderson said. “If cattle were infected with the disease, it would have a major impact on the United States economy, which is something terrorists want to do.”
In the case of a foot and mouth disease infection in local herds, Anderson said officials would likely handle it like chronic wasting disease has been handled in Colorado.
Many animals would have to be killed to try and prevent further spread, he said.
Anderson said overall it is impossible to be totally prepared for a terrorist attack.
“There’s so many issues,” he said. “The bottom line is there’s more going on with terrorists than any one person can do.”
But Bowler said if an event like Sept. 11 were to occur again, the nation would not be in the same state of surprise it was a year ago.
“You kept hearing people say after 9/11 ‘I can’t believe it happened,'” she said. “At the seminar we kept being reminded that we know something is probably going to happen again. We just don’t know how and don’t know when.”
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.
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