Local News

UNC Playing Crucial Role In Bioterrorism Defense

Posted September 28, 2001 9:14 a.m. EDT

— Months before September 11, the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

called on

UNC's School of Public Health

to prepare the state for other disasters, like bioterrorism.

Now that there is a proven threat, the North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness has new found importance.

Whether it is the threat of a terrorist stealing a crop-duster and spraying deadly anthrax spores over large populations or someone trying to contaminate our water supplies with smallpox, the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 has made all of us think about what once was unthinkable.

Rachel Stevens of UNC's School of Public Health is on the front lines in preparing that response by helping to educate and organize local public health workers. She says that the goal is to make them ready for anything, including bioterrorism.

"If something occurred in a local community or at the state level, they would be able to locate the source of the problem, be able to identify what caused the problem and then respond," she said.

"We're already getting e-mail messages about how to deal with heightened security," said UNC environmental engineering professor Francis DiGiano.

DiGiano expects that water treatment facilities will now re-evaluate how to protect against possible attacks.

"I think this is an area -- its something we have ignored, and we know now [that] we are vulnerable," DiGiano said.

Like with other disaster training, public health leaders say the goal is not to instill fear, but to prepare for the worst.

Even before the $400,000 grant from the CDC, the School of Public Health offered educational outreach to local communities. The school helped coordinate the response during Hurricane Floyd.