Threat anthrax poses remains far too small to justify...

October 25, 2001

Threat anthrax poses remains far too small to justify public panic

The reaction of America to the anthrax scare is understandable. Three Americans have died and more are apt to follow. The reality of the danger of anthrax, however, has been wildly overstated.

A few figures: three deaths from anthrax, a few others seriously endangered. In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control reports 83 Americans die every hour from heart disease, 62 from cancer, 18 from strokes, 11 from accidents.

Two are killed in the average hour from hypertension, and an equal number die of AIDS. Even hernias result in the deaths of three Americans every two hours.

If we are going to protect ourselves from more serious threats to our health, we should look at our habits -- 45 die each hour directly or indirectly from the use of tobacco, 12 from the use of alcohol and almost one an hour from aspirin and other anti-inflammatory agents.

We should be diligent in protecting ourselves from this latest threat. Fortunately, we are doing that.

But panic is not only nonproductive, it is unwarranted.

Stanley L. Rodbell

Columbia

Millions of cases of deadly AIDS throughout the world, and most Americans barely lift an eyebrow.

A few cases of anthrax (which in rural Russia is as common as measles) and the nation goes hysterical.

There are 280 million of us. You can get better odds in the lottery. Think!

Michael Kernan

Baltimore

Why weren't postal workers tested for anthrax earlier?

I cannot understand why postal employees throughout the United States were not the first tested for anthrax.

Anthrax was being distributed through the postal system -- duh!

Drema Wolfe

Baltimore

Smallpox virus could pose a much greater threat

The Sun's article "Bush vows `whatever it takes' against bioterrorism" (Oct. 18) noted, regarding smallpox: "The bacteria still exist in some laboratories."

Smallpox is caused by a virus, not a bacterium. Bacterial infections (i.e., anthrax) are generally readily treatable with antibiotics. There are fewer effective treatments for viral infections. Consider, for example, HIV, herpes or even the common cold. In general, diseases caused by viruses are treated by preventing the infection in the first place -- through sanitation and vaccination.

While I am old enough to have been vaccinated against smallpox as a child, any American born after 1972 is not.

And, considering also that smallpox (unlike anthrax) is transmitted from person to person, is it any wonder that disease, in the hands of a terrorist, could present a much bigger threat?

Barry Williams

Bel Air

Note: The mistaken characterization of smallpox was an editor's error. The Sun regrets the error.

Our politicians must put needs of others first...

We close the House and the Senate chambers, but the rest of the country must "stand up and fight the terrorists." Aren't we sending a mixed message?

And while the House and Senate were tested for anthrax, the mail carriers just had to go about their business.

When will the politicians learn that it's about time they think of someone else -- instead of always what's right for them?

Shirley Holgate

Baltimore

...and raise the sales tax to fund improved security

The article "Terror fight takes toll on stressed city" (Oct. 21) is a call for help.

Mayor Martin O'Malley has taken an important leadership role in providing additional money to maintain the city police force's ability to defend all of Baltimore against terrorism. But millions of dollars more will be needed in coming years to maintain our security. Our representatives must raise additional money for our protection.

This is an appropriate time to raise our sales tax to 6 percent to cover the cost, not only for Baltimore but for all county jurisdictions. It is our civic duty to support our police and security people who desperately need this financial help.

Walter Boyd

Lutherville

Let the world's Muslims aid Afghanistan's children

Instead of President Bush asking American children to contribute money to aid Afghan children and orphans, why doesn't he suggest that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims offer their money and support for this worthy cause?

Frank Bressler

Pikesville

What must Israel endure before it acts to stop terror?

Let me get this straight: The United States can respond with overwhelming force and bombing to terror attacks against it, but Israel must stick to a carefully scripted set of rules when responding to terror attacks and can never move into Palestinian-controlled territory ("Getting Israel to back off," editorial, Oct. 23).

Once again The Sun makes demands on Israel and requests a wait-and-see attitude toward the Palestinians. How many times does Israel have to endure terror attacks and failed promises from the Palestinians before it is allowed to react?

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