By Elise Schoening
Every week, Features Editor Elise Schoening hits the archives and finds old Signals that relate to current College topics and top stories.
Last week, water accumulation in the Chemistry Building resulted in cancelled classes. Campus Police were called to address the broken sprinkler system and flooded classrooms. This is not the first time that chaos has struck the Science Complex. In Nov. 2001, the College’s biology labs were closed for a thorough search by the FBI as part of an investigation into a local anthrax outbreak.
The FBI visited the College in response to statewide anthrax investigations to rule out the possibility of engineering or growing deadly bacteria in statewide anthrax investigation to rule out the possibility of engineering or growing the deadly bacteria in state institutions on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
According to Associate Director of College Relations Sue Long, other New Jersey colleges have been subject to similar investigations, yet the press has focused on the College due to the close proximity of reported cases of anthrax exposure, as well as the “Trenton NJ” postmark found on the tainted letters sent to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
After a West Trenton letter carrier contracted cutaneous anthrax, federal investigators have narrowed their search for the source of the letters to a one square mile area in Ewing.
However, the source of the spores is still under investigation.
In response to the probability of a college or university having the engineering ability to produce the terrorist form of anthrax, Princeton University molecular biology professor Thomas Silhavy said, “It’s possible, but not likely.”
In an interview with the Trenton Times, Silhavy said that if information was correct that the form of anthrax in the letters was fine, pure and free of electrostatic charges, “it’s not something that some guy could make in his garage.”
In its natural state, anthrax has a low rate of infection among people.
Experts say it takes a sophisticated lab and advanced skill to turn the natural anthrax spore into an aerosol that can cause death from lung infection.
Over 1,100 postal employees have visited the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton to receive treatment or testing.
Only five local postal workers have confirmed or suspected cases of both cutaneous and inhalation anthrax.
A sixth case has been reported by a Hamilton Township woman. As a precautionary measure, Cipro, an antibiotic used to treat anthrax, is being distributed to many postal employees in the area.
The head of the College’s biology department, Raymond Fangboner, confirmed that the College’s biology lab is unable to produce the terroristic form of anthrax.