Anthrax: campus concerns

By Beth Ann Conahan
October 25, 2001

The threat of bioterrorism has grown since the beginning of this month when anthrax started being sent through the mail. Officials confirmed the death of two postal workers as a result of inhalation of the powdery substance. This brings the total number of deaths resulting from this bioterrorism to three. In addition to the confirmed deaths, a mail employee in New Jersey is believed to be suffering from the disease, according to state health officials.

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease that is spread by a spore-forming bacterium. It occurs most often in wild and domestic animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, camels and other lower vertebrates. Humans become infected when they come in contact with the disease through the skin, lungs or gastrointestinal tract.

Tim Serbin, the mailroom manager on campus, does not think “we’re one of their targets” so he sees only a few concerns but does not believe it to be an issue at Cabrini.

As a precaution, the school has supplied the mailroom with gloves. It is recommended that mailroom employees wear gloves when working with mail from the post office but not required.

Outside the door to the mailroom is a flyer, which lists characteristics of a suspicious letter or package and explains what to do if a student receives a suspicious piece of mail.

Director of Public Safety Charles Schaffner said, “There’s always room to be concerned.” His concerns are focused on the country. He is not as concerned that the college will be targeted.

No students have attempted to make prank calls to public safety regarding the disease and no real calls have been made either. “The student populous is mature enough not to play those kinds of pranks,” he said.

If any student did make a prank call, they would be handled harshly. “This is not a joking matter by any stretch of the imagination,” Schaffner said.

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Beth Ann Conahan

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