- LOS ANGELES -
is increasing the possibility of biological
terrorism against Los Angeles
and other U.S. cities, a military expert
on biological warfare said at
a seminar on bioterrorism.
- Dr. Theodore J.
Cieslak, field operations chief at the
U.S. Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick,
Md., said that only
major world powers with huge research budgets can develop
weapons that can kill mass numbers of people. But samples of
such as anthrax are relatively easy to obtain, he said, and terrorists
continue to get smarter.
- "The technology is there now to do it on a small
scale," Cieslak said after his talk. "To do it on a larger scale
is, fortunately for us, a lot more problematic."
- But, he added, "the
intelligence community feels
within the next 10 years the chance of a
larger scale successful attack
- Cieslak was speaking
at an annual three-day conference
organized by Los Angeles County
coroner/chief medical examiner Lakshmanan
Sathyavagiswaran to provide
professional education to his staff and other
medical examiners from
throughout the country. It was held in the Los Angeles
- Held at the Beverly Garland Hilton Hotel in North Hollywood,
the conference includes such gruesome topics as "Use of Cadaver
Dogs" and "Homicide Since the Middle
- Cieslak tried to teach the doctors what to look for if
suspect an anthrax attack but said it is difficult to diagnose at
first. Unfortunately, the disease's first symptoms are similar to a common
cold or flu, and by the time they become more serious, it is too late for
treatment, he said.
- "If we wait for the medical examiner to make the
first diagnosis, the horse is already out of the barn."
- Instead, the best
hope doctors have is to then quickly
try to find other people who have
come into contact with the virus and
administer the proper antibiotics
along with a vaccine.
- Law enforcement officials have seen a steep rise in the
number of anthrax hoaxes in the past few years, he said, to the point
they have become the '90s equivalent of the bomb threat or the
- It is relatively easy to obtain a culture of anthrax,
- But the good news is that in order to spread the virus
effectively through the air, it has to be reduced in size and kept that
way over time, a very difficult and expensive process that only a few
- Members of the audience reacted with a mix of shock and
shrugs. Some said they were personally more worried about realistic,
threats like gunshots and automobile accidents rather than
has only a slim possibility of occurring. Others said
just the possibility
of a terrorist anthrax attack was
- "It's a scary thought," said Dr. Lisa Scheinin,
deputy medical examiner with the county coroner's office. "The scary
thing is by the time you know what the problem is, there are people who
are already dead and are going to die no matter what you do."
- It's kind of sobering
how easy it is, if some nut with
a little bit of brains wants to do