- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

To the rest of the country, the anthrax scare sweeping Washington looks a little like campaign finance reform: They know it's important, they know they need to know more about it, but so far it seems like the impact is limited mainly to insiders.
Despite an outbreak of anthrax scares and hoaxes in virtually every state, people outside Washington and New York have yet to feel as though they are in imminent danger of infection.
"It's obvious they're targeting government officials," said Ed Schultz, a syndicated radio talk-show host based in Fargo, N.D. "People here want to know about it, but they're not sure there's anything in it for them."
In Boise, Idaho, where Ada County rescuers responded to eight calls yesterday alerting them to suspicious white powders, the mood was cautious but hardly panic-stricken, said a woman who was serving coffee at that city's Starbucks franchise.
"Everybody's pretty calm," said the woman, who gave her name only as Lisa.
Doug Wright, a radio talk-show host at KSL-AM in Salt Lake City, said Utah has also had its share of scares. On Tuesday, an entire neighborhood was evacuated after the discovery of a white powder, but it was labeled a prank after the culprit confessed.
"The older folks are a little more anxious, but most people are taking it with a grain of salt," said Mr. Wright. "One woman called and said, 'I'm more concerned about whether I'm wearing a seat belt and my kids are in their safety seat than by getting zapped by anthrax.'"
At the same time, they were taking precautions. Mr. Wright noted that mailroom employees at his station were wearing rubber gloves as they sifted through envelopes.
One problem is that people don't know whom to blame. "People are angry, but they don't know who to be angry at," said Mr. Wright. "They know it's terrorism, but they don't know if it's your friendly neighborhood wacko or Osama bin Laden. It's frustrating."
So far, the bioterrorism hardly could be counted as devastating, the Missoula, Mont., Missoulian said in an editorial.
"One person has already died," the newspaper said on Tuesday. "But the likelihood of the average American being targeted remains extremely remote. Statistically, you face a greater likelihood of harm crossing the street than you do of coming in contact with the anthrax bacteria."
Charlie Brennan, radio talk-show host at KMOX-AM in St. Louis, said most of his callers recognize they are unlikely targets. "Definitely in St. Louis, there's no sign of panic yet," he said.
Those living in the Midwest know something about anthrax. The disease is found most commonly in animals, and farmers have learned to recognize the signs, giving them an advantage over city-dwellers.
"Anthrax is around in rural areas. In agriculture, it's something they've been dealing with for a long time," said Mr. Schultz, whose show is heard in seven states and Canada. "So most people here are apprehensive, but not panicky. That's the mood."
Indeed, the anthrax scare has given people in the nation's midsection reason to be grateful they live outside the Capital Beltway.
"I don't think Osama bin Laden has even heard of St. Louis," said Mr. Brennan. "Usually we feel left out of things, but now there's a feeling and perhaps it's a false feeling of security."


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