With threats of bioterrorism across the United States, The University of Texas-Pan American hosted a lecture Wednesday, Oct. 31 to inform the UTPA community on the history of the anthrax virus and its use as a biological weapon.
The lecture at the Student Union Theater featured Drs. Joseph B. McCormick, assistant dean, and Susan P. Fisher-Hoch, epidemiology professor, both at The University of Texas Houston School of Public Health at Brownsville.
"We want to educate people and give them the facts about what anthrax is, where it lives and its history," McCormick said. "We want people to put it into context and not get frightened about what they hear (in the media)."
McCormick - who has worked for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and has an extensive background in a number of diseases, including the Ebola outbreak in Africa - also briefly discussed the history of bioterrorism and biowarfare through the ages, as well as the need for the South Texas area to be prepared should an attack occur.
"Early detection and response to the biological or chemical threats are crucial," he said. "We also need to respond professionally and in an organized way to the possible threats."
Fisher-Hoch lectured on the three forms of human anthrax - cutaneous (skin lesions), gastrointestinal (eating infected meat) and pulmonary (spore laden dust). She also discussed the symptoms of anthrax and the antibiotic treatment for the infectious disease.
As far as the Rio Grande Valley, McCormick said the area is not a high- risk target for bioterrorism. But, it could become the entryway for the smuggling of infectious diseases because of its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border.
"We do have to realize we are on the U.S.-Mexico border where material can be brought in the through the border," McCormick said. "The biggest risk here is not being the targets but becoming the conduits."
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with the professors.
The UTPA Department of Environmental Health and Safety, Student Union and Police Department sponsored the event.