- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Virginia is prepared to handle bioterrorism threats and will be adjusting its response plans as it learns from the current anthrax attacks, Gov. James S. Gilmore III and his top public health deputy said yesterday.
"I'm confident that procedures are in place, if there is a bioterrorism threat, we will find it," Mr. Gilmore said in a speech to members of the Virginia Biotechnology Association in Alexandria.
He cited a 24-hour surveillance system, with daily disease reports from all parts of the state, as one of the state's chief weapons in fighting bioterrorism.
"A terrorist attack can come at any time, at any place … but we can be prepared. We can minimize the risk," he said.
The state's responsiveness was put to the test this weekend, when a D.C. postal worker checked into Inova Fairfax Hospital on Friday and complained of flulike symptoms.
By Sunday, the man, Leroy Richmond, 57, of Stafford County, had been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax. Yesterday, D.C. officials confirmed that two other postal workers have died of inhalation anthrax. Mr. Richmond is being treated for his disease.
Virginia Health Commissioner Anne Peterson said the system worked as it's supposed to, with immediate notification of health officials in the District and Maryland.
"We have been working together with D.C. and Maryland since Sept. 11," she said. "We activated our surveillance system that day."
Because anthrax is such a rare disease, though, the District has modified its response to the attack in recent days, ordering antibiotic treatment for postal workers and others who were not immediately assumed to be at risk.
Miss Peterson said Virginia is also learning from the current crisis.
"We're watching what's happening very closely, and we'll modify our protocols as we learn more," she said.
Mr. Gilmore, who heads a national terrorism panel, said the group will be issuing its third report this week to President Bush and to Congress. He did not disclose its details, but said it will focus on health and medical issues like bioterrorism.
He also said that "Virginians, as the forebearers of American liberty, have a duty to rise up, with righteousness and wrath, against those who would destroy our way of life."

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