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GULF WAR 2: Agencies on high alert for bio terror.

Byline: DECLAN FAHY and CIAN McCORMACK

IRELAND'S bio-terrorism security was put on high alert yesterday as the threat of terrorist attacks increased.

Plans drawn up by the Contingency Planning for Biological Threats Committee (CPBTC) to cope with a biological and chemical attack were being put into place.

A EUR100,000 decontamination unit built near Shannon Airport, a prime target for terrorists, will treat the victims of any chemical or biological strike.

The Mid-Western Health Board said the unit will be used if health personnel have to operate on the frontline of a contaminated area.

Assistant chief Ger Crowle said the board has a responsibility to look at potential risks.

He added: "We are conscious that Shannon Airport is in our region and because of the US military traffic landing in Clare there is some concern.

"Our fundamental concerns relate to bio-terrorism. We are trying to make sure all of our staff are well briefed and have the capacity to respond in the event of there being a problem."

Set up last May, the CPBTC has input from several disease experts, the Defence Forces and gardai.

The think-tank recently warned: "It is clear there is a need for preparation for dealing with people who have been exposed to or infected with bio-terrorism agents.

"Anthrax, smallpox, botulism and plague pose a grim risk to public health because they can be easily transmitted and can kill huge numbers."

A terrorist attack on the UK using smallpox could spread to Ireland as people, unaware they are infected, travel across the Irish Sea.

More than 600,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine have been stockpiled.

Dr Joan Gilvarry of the Medical Board said adequate stocks of antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin for the treatment of anthrax, are now in place.

She added: "We think it is incumbent on all the statutory agencies to prepare for the worse case scenario."

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GRIM: Chemical warfare suits
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2003
Words:319
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