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In Madras, alll remains calm in light of bioterrorism fears

Madras Anthrax reaction-W
By Troy Foster
   News Editor
   As anthrax anxiety sweeps across the United States, Madras health officials, pharmacists and postal workers report that Jefferson County residents are keeping everything in perspective.
   Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the growing number of anthrax cases that have ensued, a sense of fear has gripped many Americans.
   In this small county, however, most area residents who'd be at the front lines in the war against terror if their professions were based back East say there is little cause for alarm.
   Pharmaceutical employees at Thrifty Hometown Drug, Bi-Mart and Safeway said not a single person has requested Cipro, the anthrax-fighting antibiotic for treating the bacteria being used as a biological weapon. Nor has anyone had nasal swabs or blood tests taken at Mountain View Hospital for exposure to anthrax, administrator Susan McGough said.
   "I don't think there's many targets of opportunity in Madras," said postal worker Dave Lovik.
   But for Lovik and his co-workers at the local post office, news coming out of Washington D.C. does hit home.
   It was announced Monday that two D.C. postal workers died from what is believed to inhalation anthrax and two more are hospitalized with the deadly form of the infection. That brings the total to 10 Americans who are confirmed to have been infected by the bacteria while 32 more have tested positive for exposure to it.
   As 2,000 Washington D.C. postal workers began undergoing immediate tests for exposure Monday, Lovik, who's worked as a mail carrier for 28 years, expressed mixed emotions.
   "I'm sad and I'm angry at the same time," he said. "I'm sad because it's one of us. They hit our country and now they're hitting our colleagues.
   "Some poor guy gets up and goes to work in the morning and then a week later he's dead."
   Despite their quiet resolve, health and mail service officials in Madras have taken some extra preparatory steps in light of the unfolding terrorism-related events in other parts of the country.
   Up at Mountain View Hospital, staff members are handing out fact sheets on anthrax and have fielded a few inquiries about symptoms of the bacteria.
   "A couple people have come in and some are just a little worried," McGough said. "Many have picked up our information but nobody has had symptoms."
   At the downtown post office, Postmaster Jim Lowery says things are "business as usual" but his employees' awareness has been "a foot off the ground."
   Through a national-headquarters directive, every postal worker has been given a kit with gloves and a mask to handle letters as suspected bio-terrorists are using the mail system to deliver the infectious bacteria.
   "We're doing our everyday things to stay safe," Lowery said. "It's changed everywhere. We don't take anything for granted anymore."
   Each postal worker has been given a memo listing certain characteristics of letters that employees should be concerned about. But there have been no scares at the Madras post office like a reported case in Bend where a white substance found on a letter turned out to be toothpaste.
   Local postal workers said they're not going to wear the protective gear unless they come across a letter that fits the suspicious letter list.
   And besides, they said, postal workers had training on handling hazardous materials long before Sept. 11 changed the country.
   And for Lovik, not wearing the gear constantly is his way of standing up to the culprits that killed his colleagues in Washington.
   "I refuse to be afraid," he said.