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TERRORISM What's happening



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The latest developments in the war on terrorism:

PROTECTING CHILDREN

The United States is not prepared to protect and treat children in the event of a terrorist attack, child health and safety experts said Thursday as they concluded a conference in Washington.

"The possibility of large numbers of children in this country being affected by weapons of terror have not been addressed -- on state or federal or local levels in most parts of the United States," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children's Health Fund, which develops health-care programs for disadvantaged children.

Redlener, who also serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics' task force on terrorism, said that disaster planning since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has focused primarily on the needs and requirements of adults.

"Children cannot be managed in the same way [as] adults -- for a variety of reasons that have to do with the anatomical and physiologic makeup of children," Redlener said. Because of those differences, he said, treatments and preventive measures that may be effective for adults could cause problems in children.

For example, children require smaller doses of vaccines and antidotes than adults do, but most doses stockpiled by hospitals and the government are only for adults.

Because they are shorter and therefore closer to the ground, where toxic gases would be more concentrated or particulate matter would settle, children also have an increased risk of exposure to chemical or biological agents, Redlener said.

Their skin is also more porous, and they breathe more rapidly than adults, meaning that they could absorb more toxic material in less time, he said.

SUSPECTS ARRESTED

British police said today they had arrested four terror suspects near London's Heathrow airport, where the army has deployed hundreds of troops because of fears of an attack.

Thames Valley Police on Thursday arrested four suspects in Langley, some five miles west of Heathrow.

Police didn't give details about the suspects or say if any weapons were found. They refused to say whether the arrests were connected to the security alert at Heathrow and in the London area since Tuesday.

The suspects were being questioned, and local officers were in contact with the anti-terrorist unit at Scotland Yard, police said.

Officers also continued to question a 37-year-old Venezuelan man today after he was arrested at London's Gatwick airport for carrying a suspected live hand grenade in his luggage. He arrived on a flight from Caracas on Thursday afternoon, and his arrest led officers to shut the airport's North Terminal for several hours.

ANTHRAX VACCINATIONS

Injecting the military can-do spirit into a program weighed down by difficulty, an Army colonel said Thursday that the Pentagon had vaccinated "well over" 100,000 troops against smallpox and received only three reports of serious reactions.

"The risks [of the vaccine] are still pretty darn low," Col. John D. Grabenstein, deputy director for military vaccines, told a scientific panel created to advise the government's smallpox vaccination program.

"Sick leave is rare and short ... and just about everything is occurring at rates lower than historically predicted," he said.

Grabenstein's upbeat report -- coming in the third week of a program characterized by fits and starts, confusion and controversy -- prompted members of the committee to ask how the military's success can be replicated in the civilian world.

Not easily, appears to be the short answer. For about 500,000 military personnel, inoculation against the deadly smallpox virus is an order, not a choice.

Source: Combined dispatches




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