- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

By all indications, a much-feared anthrax assault may have recently occurred in Florida. Anthrax spores were found in America Media employee Ernesto Blanco, who was hospitalized last week with flu-like symptoms. Those spores were also found on the keyboard of his co-worker, Bob Stevens, who died from the disease last week after experiencing similar symptoms.
Mr. Stevens joined 18 others known to have been afflicted with pulmonary anthrax this century all of those others worked in uncommon environments (such as wool sorting factories) where airborne anthrax spores are common. The current case of anthrax spores may have been delivered to the American Media building in a letter which reportedly contained a Star of David charm and a "soapy, powdery substance."
Thanks to these circumstances, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Monday that what started as epidemiology may soon become criminology. It should. While White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned yesterday against jumping to conclusions, this is, by all accounts, an unnatural event. It's also an event that a terrorist would naturally want to cause. After all, the intent of the terrorist is to terrify. As if any more evidence were needed, Osama bin Laden made that point again in his recently released videotaped statement.
The good news is that this appears to be a sneeze-sized assault rather than a full-scale biological weapons attack. Even though antibiotics have been provided to those who may have been exposed in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced, "The current risk of anthrax among employees and visitors to the building is extremely low." Instead of rushing out to buy gas masks like Maureen Dowd and Sally Quinn, most Americans seem to be reacting calmy.
That shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, while Americans have a habit of panicking over trivialities, they are usually steadfast under utter duress. While concert tickets for a boy band can inspire a Calgary-sized stampede, planes crashing into skyscrapers results in orderly evacuations down smoky staircases.
Were it to be found that a hostile state had a hand in releasing a weapon of mass destruction upon the United States (or even considered doing so), then the Bush administration should be prepared to respond in kind, with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons against those individuals and/or states.
In the longer term, America should improve its ability to defend itself against bioterrorism. Medical personnel need additional training in spotting and responding to such attacks, supplies of vaccines and antibiotics used to treat against those biological agents need to be increased. Funding for basic research against such weapons will have to be hiked.
As frightening as it to contemplate these awful eventualities, by their common sense and their natural ingenuity, Americans will remain resilient against whatever the crazed terrorists can think of throwing at us next.

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