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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, August 10, 2022


Oct. 15, 2001 – Harold Baker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said Monday that the territory is "in pretty good shape" to deal with biological or other threats to its security.
"We have heightened security measures," he said.
News reports at noon Monday indicated that the number of anthrax cases on the U.S. mainland is growing. However, Baker and Health Department spokesman Lee Vanterpool said they know of no cases in the territory.
"But we are on heightened state of alert to monitor these types of things," Vanterpool added.
Baker and Vanterpool said they think the risk is small in the territory. Baker said the small population and the heightened alert status will help prevent terrorist attacks in any form.
"But we're living in a whole new era," Vanterpool pointed out. He said staff at hospital emergency rooms and those at private physicians' offices have agreed to report any cases with anthrax symptoms to the Health Department. He said they are also looking for clusters of incidents, such as a group of children from the same school, that would indicate the facility had been targeted for anthrax terror.
He stressed that anthrax is not contagious. People must come in contact with the spores to contract it.
He said there are three types of anthrax.
– In cases of skin anthrax, which was the case at NBC News in New York, the spores attack the skin.
"It takes one to two days to notice an ulcer, and within three days the skin turns black," Vanterpool said, describing the symptoms.
– With inhalation anthrax, which killed a man at American Media at Boca Raton, Fla., initial symptoms are similar to those of a common cold or flu. They develop into severe breathing problems.
"It is usually fatal in two or three days," Vanterpool said.
– The third kind, intestinal anthrax, is one humans can contract by eating contaminated meat.
In the case of intestinal anthrax, victims experience nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and vomiting of blood. No such cases have been reported on the mainland.
Baker said the territory has enough antibiotics on hand at the islands' pharmacies to handle around 100 anthrax cases.
"Pharmacies are preparing themselves for it," he said, adding they are ordering more.
He said he was still checking to see if the territory had materials on hand to test for anthrax but did not yet have an answer.
Postmaster Louis Jackson was off island and no one else at the U.S. Postal Service could answer questions regarding delivery of anthrax through the mail. However, Baker advised residents to pay attention to what arrives in their mail. In all of the cases discovered on the U.S. mainland, the anthrax spores are believed to have been mailed to the various facilities.
Baker also advised individuals and business personnel to check packages and watch who comes into their establishlments.
"The public has to get involved," he said.
At agencies across the territory, staff are gearing up for the threat of any sort of attack. While airports have stepped up security in the hope of preventing another airplane hijacking, terrorists may have other methods of attack up their sleeves.
"My plans of Sept. 10 changed since Sept. 11," Fire Services Director Ian Williams Sr. said, referring to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He said his staff takes no threat lightly.
Brian Chapman, deputy fire chief on St. John, pointed out that the territory sometimes sees visits from high-profile government officials.
While the V.I. public seldom hears about their stays at luxury hotels and villas, others with terror on their mind may know. This, he said, puts the territory at risk.
And with a transient population, it may be difficult to spot anyone bent on harm. "It's hard to know who's who," Chapman said.
Vanterpool said the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is sending out frequent updates on the anthrax situation.
Anyone developing symptoms that could be anthrax should call the Health Department at 776-8311 on St. Thomas and 773-1311 on St. Croix.

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