Wash. Post: tularemia bacteria at CD protests


Richard Moore

    "Why that day? That's what is not explained," Pane said. "It
    was just this 24-hour period and none since."



btw> For those interested, here's a conspiracy-theory page
that pulls together material related to this topic & U.S.
biological programs. I haven't looked at the site and much of
it may be bogus, but there are probably also leads to reliable
information difficult to find elsewhere. 



Biohazard  Sensors Triggered 
Mall Germ Levels  Likely Not a Threat 

By Martin Weil  and Susan Levine 
Washington Post Staff Writers 
Saturday, October 1, 2005; B01 

Biohazard sensors showed the presence of small amounts of
potentially dangerous tularemia bacteria in the Mall area last
weekend  as huge crowds assembled there, but health officials
said they believed the levels were too low to be a threat.

Health authorities in the Washington area were notified
yesterday that the bacteria were found in and near the area
between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, where
crowds gathered Saturday for an antiwar rally and a book

The notification, which came from federal health officials,
said that after the initial detection, subsequent tests
"supported the presence of low levels" of the bacteria.
However, officials also said they did not believe the findings
posed a health problem.

"We pretty much feel there is no public health threat here,"
said Von Roebuck, a spokesman for the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, noting that there have been no
reports of tularemia, the disease that is caused by the
bacteria. "We just wanted to alert the medical community to
watch out for cases."

Health officials said the usual incubation period for
tularemia is less than a week.

Roebuck said people who were on the Mall but who do not have
symptoms need not be concerned.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, joint
pain, dry cough and conjunctivitis.

Officials said the quantities detected were too small to have
been an attack.

In nature, the bacteria are found in rodents and small
animals, and "the working hypothesis" is that something in the
environment got stirred up, D.C. Public Health Director Gregg
A. Pane said.

But he said it was puzzling that the finding was from a day
when the Mall was packed with people.

"Why that day? That's what is not explained," Pane said. "It
was just this 24-hour period and none since."

At least one official suggested that so many people on the
Mall might have triggered the alert, since dry conditions
would have made it easier to raise dust.

Tularemia is not spread from person to person. It can be
contracted by direct contact with the bacteria that cause it
-- by swallowing them or, if they have been suspended in air,
through inhalation.

The germ that causes tularemia is considered a biohazard
because it is highly infectious and was tested in the 1960s by
the United States as a biological weapon. The disease is
treatable with antibiotics but, if left untreated, can be

The country has spent more than $200 million to install the
sensor system known as BioWatch in more than 30 U.S. cities.
Samples from sensors are collected daily to check for
pathogens such as those that cause anthrax, smallpox or

More than a half-dozen sensors operating from 10 a.m. Saturday
to 10 a.m. Sunday -- at sites including the Lincoln Memorial,
Fort McNair and Judiciary Square -- detected the bacteria,
Pane said he was told.

He said the CDC expected to notify hospitals nationwide as a
precaution because so many people came from out of town to the
Mall last weekend.

Similarly, he said, he expected area health officials to watch
for symptoms into next week.

Authorities recommend that people who visited the Mall between
10 a.m. Sept. 24 and 10 a.m. Sept. 25 should see a physician
if they experience symptoms.

Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu, Daniel K. Eggen and Rick Weiss
contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company 


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