Cabrini science unaffected by anthrax scares

By Kelly Finlan
October 17, 2002

The Cabrini College science department was not affected by the anthrax scares of a year ago. Despite the tightened security and FBI monitoring, science departments of the university level have had to make little adjustment.

There are “no pathogenic organisms used in the labs,” Dr. Sheryl Fuller-Espie, the departmental chair of sciences at Cabrini College, said. Pathogenic organisms are generally not found in the university setting, and, therefore, did not pose a threat to American campuses after Sept. 11.

Cabrini, in fact, uses non-pathogenic organisms, which means they will not cause disease unless one is susceptible to illness due to decreased immune system or prior illness. They are opportunists, attacking vulnerable bodies but not healthy ones. Students are made aware of this before handling them.

There are precautions being taken to secure the safety of Americans. The FBI has ordered suppliers to carefully screen buyers and keep extraordinarily detailed records. Such records must include the time, place and frequency of orders and any pertinent information acquired after screening. The FBI is also investigating the chemical suppliers responsible for the distribution of pathogenic organisms.

This is affecting research laboratories. Vital pathogens are increasingly difficult to attain. They are also under intense scrutiny from the U.S. government, making everyday functions complicated.

Reuters reports that the U.S. government has begun to select manufacturers to develop a new anthrax vaccine. The current one requires recipients receive six doses over the course of 18 months. They hope to secure 25,000 doses of a single-dose vaccine in the near future to keep as an emergency stockpile.

Medical schools nationwide are training doctors differently. The diagnosis and treatment of bioterrorism is being incorporated into classrooms. The quick, accurate identification of infectious disease is being taught. Prior to the attacks, doctors in the United States were not kept informed of the latest bioterroristic threats and treatments.

The infectious disease courses offered at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has greatly increased since last year. Reuters reported that they have expanded to cover such topics as smallpox, encephalitis and anthrax. Many American medical schools are also offering classes covering the moral and ethical implications of bioterrorism. These classes will explore the social and psychological side effects of acquiring these diseases and hypothetical scenarios involving a vaccine shortage.

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Kelly Finlan

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