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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
US press urge action over anthrax
US postman
Postal workers are in the front line
Growing alarm over anthrax, fuelled by the deaths of two Washington postal workers, has raised questions in the US press as to what action can be taken and why protective measures were not introduced sooner.

"It took until Sunday to test and give antibiotics to workers at the facility where Senator Daschle's letter was processed; the contaminated letter had been found six days earlier. Is broader and quicker testing in order?" asks the Washington Post.

"What we have seen over the weekend and yesterday underscores both the gravity of the situation and the need for authorities to be aggressive and expansive on matters of public health... especially if a few days can spell the difference between life and death," it adds.

With the unimaginable now reality, nothing is more important than anticipating the worst possible results early

USA Today
"The war keeps expanding," observes the New York Times.

"Some 800,000 postal employees entrusted with 680 million pieces of mail daily now find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terror."

"These new developments raise disturbing questions about the potency and transmissibility of the anthrax being sent through the mail," the paper adds.

Just as airline security has been stepped up since 11 September, the Times says "public resources must also be marshalled to safeguard the nation's stream of mail, and Americans' trust in it."

Let's not help the terrorists by helping spread unjustified fear

Houston Chronicle
Offering some perspective, the Houston Chronicle points our that "people are more likely to win the notoriously difficult Texas lottery than be stricken by anthrax spores."

The paper goes on to offer some prescient advice for dealing with a suspicious letter or package, but cautions against alarmism.

"Let's not help the terrorists by helping spread unjustified fear. And let's not overburden our doctors and public safety workers by making their jobs more difficult . It's mostly common sense and calm that are needed now," suggests the paper.

Taking an uncompromising stance, the Boston Herald calls for tough action against anthrax hoaxers, likening them to "flies on garbage ... plaguing the nation."

"Every possible piece of legal flypaper is needed," the paper says.

With the benefit of hindsight, USA Today describes a biological attack as an "appallingly obvious," terror tactic, and says a new approach is needed.

Hazardous Materials Emergency Response team
Preparation for more cases is vital, says USA Today

"The potential could have been seen in advance," the paper says, but "the inability of public health officials to connect the dots rather than react narrowly is worrying."

"A terrorist attack is not a science project. Heading it off and thwarting its consequences require anticipating future problems, not just dissecting what's already known to have happened," the paper suggests.

"With the unimaginable now reality, nothing is more important than anticipating the worst possible results early. That means thinking two steps ahead and keeping the public tuned to the thinking," it concludes.

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Investigators still have no idea who is behind the attacks"
Steve Cimbala, professor of political science
"There have been very mixed messages"
The BBC's Jane Standley
follows the anthrax trail to an apartment building in a suburb of Trenton, New Jersey
See also:

15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
22 Oct 01 | Health
Warning over anthrax antibiotic
22 Oct 01 | Americas
New Yorkers anxious over anthrax
22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Anthrax alert at US consulate
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