County Prepared for Bioterrorism but Still Can Improve, Official Says

By Sanchez, Robert | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

County Prepared for Bioterrorism but Still Can Improve, Official Says


Sanchez, Robert, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer

Local law enforcement and public health officials didn't know how to react several months ago when they were suddenly flooded with reports of suspicious powder.

"We were in disarray when it came to biological warfare," said James Hagen, deputy executive director of the DuPage County Health Department. "We should have known better."

No cases of anthrax or other forms of bioterrorism were found locally. But police were kept busy answering calls after Sept. 11 about suspicious powder.

Hagen said the false alarms exposed problems with the way such cases were handled.

As a result, Hagen told a class full of Elmhurst College students Tuesday, DuPage County is better prepared than it was a couple of months ago. Hagen spoke to the students as part of a one- month bioterrorism class being taught for the first time at Elmhurst College.

In response to students' questions, Hagen said: "We are much more prepared now than we were when this first happened. But we still have a ways to go."

One area that has improved is how police, fire and health officials respond to calls, Hagen said.

At the peak of the bioterrorism scare, police and fire departments across the county were receiving up to 30 calls a day, Hagen said. …

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