Funding public health is best way to prepare for a...


October 11, 2001

Funding public health is best way to prepare for a biological attack

KAL's Oct. 2 editorial cartoon illustrates the question most of us are asking in light of the tragic events of Sept. 11: Are we prepared for an act of bioterrorism?

The answer is: Not nearly prepared enough.

The Baltimore County Department of Health, along with all other local health departments in Maryland, has long experience responding to infectious disease outbreaks and other local emergencies. And although we have learned important lessons about the challenges of bioterrorism preparedness in the last few years, we have a long way to go to achieve the capacities we need to detect and respond to an act of bioterrorism as quickly as possible.

Because many symptoms caused by biological agents are difficult to differentiate from other common illnesses, local health departments, through routine disease-tracking activities, are the only agencies in a position to recognize a covert, bioterrorism attack.

Investment in our state and local public health capacity is the critical next step to prepare for a potential act of bioterrorism. It is crucial that necessary resources be provided without delay.

Just as we must keep our military defenses strong, so must we also keep our public health defenses strong.

Dr. Michelle A. Leverett


The writer is director of the Baltimore County Department of Health.

After a terrorist attack, vaccines won't do much good

I am concerned about the false sense of security health officials, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Dr. Tara O'Toole, are instilling ("O'Malley launching defense forums for U.S. cities," Oct. 2).

Mr. Thompson has declared that the U.S. has stockpiles of vaccines, gas masks and antidotes ready to be delivered in the event of terrorist attacks. And Dr. O'Toole said, "Cities will be largely on their own ... before the federal government is able to fly in antibiotics and vaccines."

The reality is that vaccines and gas masks will be of little use to protect people after an attack. Vaccines are administered to prevent infections, and it takes about two weeks for vaccinated individuals to mount an immune response effective against exposure to the virulent organism.

So long as the present terrorist threats exist, our health officials should be getting down to the business of ordering the manufacture and administration of vaccines and the distribution of gas masks, with instructions on how to use them.

Lorraine G. Fiset


Knowledge of other cultures is now equally important

Of course it is important to learn about American history ("Cheney's wife backs U.S. history emphasis," Oct. 7). However, as our country becomes more diverse, it is equally important that we -- and our children -- learn of other cultures.

We, as a nation, have become increasingly isolationist and xenophobic -- to our detriment. If we are really to be global leaders, we must know about other cultures and their perceptions of us.

And if we are to cherish the ideals of empathy and compassion, we must know how other people live their lives.

Lynne Nemeth


Israel's arrogant policies block path to coexistence

How dare Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warn the United States not to repeat the allies' mistake in 1938 of handing over Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler.

Israel is repeating Hitler's suppression of the Jews by treating the Palestinians as inferior and undeserving of humane treatment. Blockades that prevent Palestinians from going to work or even obtaining food are a disgrace. Building settlements close to Palestinian homes on the West Bank expresses an "in your face" arrogance on the part of the Israelis and provides reasons for a justifiable resentment on the part of the Palestinians.

If Israel wants to exist, it must coexist on an equally humane basis.

Richard Jendrek


Backing a Palestinian state hands terrorists a triumph

When I saw images of Palestinians celebrating the destruction of lives and the World Trade Center, I was stunned.

Regardless of personal politics, how could humans react this way? Besides, it's just plain poor politics. Whatever they were bargaining for, surely the "Great Satan" would not help them get it now, or so I thought.

Once again I was stunned when I read The Sun's Oct. 3 headline: "Bush assures Arabs, supports statehood for the Palestinians."

Perhaps we should also plow over the ruins of the World Trade Center and turn it into a national monument honoring the pluck and determination of terrorists, their sponsors and celebrants?

Morty Tenenbaum


Cozying up to Arab dictators is no way to fight terrorism

The Bush administration is cozying up to Arab nations ruled by dictators and feudal lords, who have records of egregious human-rights abuses as well as populations who hate the United States, to form a coalition against terrorism. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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