NKU free from Anthrax threats

Despite multiple false alarms of anthrax in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, Northern Kentucky University has not yet received or been informed of any terrorist threats against the university.

A university statement informed students, faculty and staff of precautions to take while opening mail.

That statement also advised anyone that thinks they may have come in contact with a letter or package containing anthrax should contact the Department of Public Safety immediately.

DPS director Jeff Butler said they are committed to maintaining safety and security on the campus.

“We’re at a heightened alert status and we are working with other facets of the university community to ensure the safety of this campus,” Butler said.

He said DPS has received only one report regarding a suspicious letter received on campus.

“It came with an out-of-the-country post-stamp without a return address. That’s the only thing that alerted the person,” he said. Butler said it turned out to be a regular piece of mail and did not contain any powder of any kind.

Michelle Kay, a Student Health Services nurse, said they have not discussed what to do in the event a student believes he or she has come in contact with anthrax.

“To be honest, we don’t have a contingency plan,” she said. Kay said if a person thinks he or she may have been infected with anthrax, it’s probably not a good idea to walk across campus to Student Health Services.

According to a statement from the Center for Disease Control, anthrax is not contagious and cannot be contracted by coming in contact with someone who is infected. It can only be contracted by rubbing cut skin, swallowing or inhalation.

The CDC advises being tested immediately if you think you may have anthrax. Most cases of anthrax can be treated with antibiotics if caught in the early stages.

An Oct. 16 statement from the Department of Justice reminded Americans it will prosecute and punish anyone responsible for terrorist hoaxes to the full extent of the law.

Attorney General Ashcroft said, “Terrorism hoaxes are not victimless crimes, but are the destructive acts of cowards.”

The multiple local anthrax scares, which have included the Lunken Airport, CVS Pharmacy in Bellevue, Ky., and the Fifth Third Bank near the Alexandria, Ky. fire station, have caused many students to be concerned.

Sophomore Kevin Michael Schweikert is concerned because he works for DHL at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“When you are working out at the airport, you always face things that could be dangerous,” he said.

Schweikert said the thought of quitting his job has crossed his mind. “Don’t know a lot of people that would like working in an unsafe environment, but I’m making good money for what I’m doing and I enjoy what I do,” he said.

Sophomore Samantha Warner, who lives in Alexandria, claimed to be concerned as well. “That’s too close and people are too ignorant about it to cause such ignorant hoaxes,” she said.

Warner said such hoaxes are not allowing America to be strong right now. Warner said you can’t feel safe anywhere.

“I think everyone feels that way now. On Sept. 11, the world changed. The security of the United States drastically changed. They had to drop everything they knew and start from scratch,” she said.

Elliott Clark, who plans to be an NKU student next semester, is a volunteer fire fighter in Alexandria, KY that is operations level HAZMAT certified.Clark said it is sad that people are inducing panic in a time of national crisis.

“Hoaxes are childish and waste a lot of valuable time, resources, and money where it could be used for a better cause,” he said.

Clark said that with Anthrax or any other hazardous material, they would identify those potentially dangerous atmospheres and then call in a specialized HAZMAT team. He said they wear protective suits and breathing masks called Self Contained Breathing Apparatus during a call.

“After any encounter with an unknown substance, we would go through decontamination,” Clark said.