U anthrax scare proves false alarm

Maggie Hessel-Mial

The University Academic Health Center saw its own share of the chaos sweeping the nation when the Minneapolis bomb squad and fire department were called in Tuesday to deal with a suspicious package.

The parcel was later identified via X-ray as a book containing no biological or explosive threat. The bomb squad immediately ruled out anthrax.

“We don’t know who the book belongs to, but we know there are no biological issues,” said University police Chief George Aylward. “We’ve verified there is nothing to worry about.”

Mailroom workers found the package addressed to Dr. David Bron in the medical department and postmarked from Cuba. There is no record of a doctor named Bron in the medical staff at the University.

The package was heavily wrapped and had a strange odor, Aylward said.

The AHC mailroom handles all incoming parcels for the Moos Tower complex and Fairview-University Medical Center. All five mailroom employees were sent home for the day.

“We’re all relieved here,” Aylward said. “This is, unfortunately, a sign of the times.”

Originally, officials from the University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety were called in to look at the package, following protocol for this type of situation. The EHS department suggested calling the bomb squad.

“The mailroom team had just been briefed this morning on how to handle this kind of situation,” he said. “Everyone has done their job and reacted properly.”

The bomb squad also received an emergency call to FUMC on Saturday when a small amount of white powder was found in one of the service elevators. No biological or chemical threat was detected.

The College of Saint Catherine’s in St. Paul experienced a similar scare Monday when two buildings were evacuated after an unknown substance was found.

Laura Farm-Franks, a freshman in General College, said the threat of bio-terrorism makes her uncomfortable.

“I think the whole country is pretty scared,” Farm-Franks said. “I’ve heard statistics on (anthrax), and I know there’s a high risk of death, which is scary.”

Jennifer Svelzle works in the Medical School’s M.D. and doctorate program office. She said while the event makes her nervous, she is not afraid to go to work.

“It’s scary to think it can happen where I work,” Svelzle said. “But I think they know how to take care of the situation.”

Other students on campus, such as Phil Barbosa, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore, are less concerned about recent anthrax fears.

“I think a lot of people are scared and don’t know how to deal with it,” Barbosa said. “I don’t think it will become an epidemic. Especially being in the Midwest, I don’t think we have much to worry about.”

“It’s good to take precautions,” he said. “But it’s bad to be paranoid.”


Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]