News 10/17/01

Ogden awaits word on possible anthrax contamination; governor urges vigilance and common sense

By Leon D'souza and Will Bettmann

The Regional Center is quiet Tuesday after the announcement of a possible exposure to anthrax. / Photo by Leon D'souza

Ogden wore a deserted look Tuesday. An anthrax scare Monday morning caused the evacuation of two buildings in the downtown area.

Police and health department officials went into high gear as they responded to two separate reports of envelopes containing a white powdery substance.

The first report came shortly after 9 a.m. from MarketStar, a marketing company on Washington Boulevard, said Bruce Champion, deputy chief of the Ogden Fire Department. This was followed by another report, approximately 30 minutes later, from the Ogden Regional Center of the state building, just one block away from MarketStar.
Champion said that three people were decontaminated at the scene, examined at the McKay-Dee hospital, and released shortly thereafter. Notice of the threat is posted on the door of the Regional Center. / Photo by Leon D'souza

The envelopes were sent to the Health Department laboratory in Salt Lake City to be tested for anthrax. Results are expected Wednesday afternoon. Until then, all that Ogden residents and health officials can do is wait.

"Until we get the test results back, it's really hard to say. It could be another hoax. They're going on all over the place. I'd hate to say that it's a hoax and have it turn out to be something real. That's what's hard about these things. You have to play the game. You have to cover all your bases and make sure that you*re doing things appropriately," Champion said.

He also said, pending an investigation by Ogden police, that there was no way to know if the incident was indeed an act of terrorism or simply a twisted prank.

"If it turns out that it was a hoax, then it's good for the people of this incident, but it's also a bad thing, because then we've got these knuckleheads around here doing this kind of stuff," Champion said.

Kevin D. Thompson, director of health promotion for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said nobody would be treated with antibiotics until the test results were back.

"If it was anthrax, there is always an incubation period. So there are several days to respond. We don't want to create panic or prescribe medication that people don't need," Thompson said.

According to Thompson, people across the nation have sought prescriptions for Cipro, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax. He strongly discouraged people from taking the drug as a precaution against possible anthrax contamination.

"Cipro is a very powerful antibiotic, and it can have a number of side effects. Also, you can build up resistance [to the drug] that could be harmful when you really need it," Thompson said.

The anthrax scares in Ogden came in the wake of several others throughout the state including one from the LDS seminary at the Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, and a couple from Salt Lake City.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt is urging vigilance and common sense amidst the current anthrax scare. Leavitt said that "no confirmed cases" have been found in the state.

Referring specifically to a case in Price that turned out to be a hoax, Leavitt sent out a strong warning to those that cause the spread of dangerous substances, or create hoaxes.

"We will prosecute anyone who chooses to do this, whether it is actually anthrax or whether it's not," Leavitt said.

The MarketStar building also is quiet after the scare. / Photo by Leon D'souza


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