By Joshua Parrott, Staff Writer
The possibility of a biological threat similar to what happened in Lubbock last week ever taking place in Abilene is highly unlikely.
Texas Tech University professor Thomas C. Butler is accused of lying to federal agents about the whereabouts of 30 vials of the plague bacteria, sparking bio-terrorism scare once the story broke early last week.
Dr. Junhui Bian, assistant professor of biology, said those within the ACU community shouldn’t be concerned about any similar incidents occurring locally.
“No one is doing any experiment using those types of agents,” Bian said. “To do those types of experiments you need to have proper lab safety levels. We can’t even do regular virus research here.”
Bian, who before coming to ACU conducted experiments for a pharmaceutical company in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that while ACU can conduct basic research, professors are not allowed to use the whole organism for the experiments.
Jimmy Ellison, chief of police and director of Public Safety, said the school does have an emergency response plan in place for anything that would be a risk to students, especially bacteria outbreaks.
“We have plans in place for dealing with anything from residence hall fires to tornadoes,” Ellison said. “All of the attention over the past year over biohazard and terrorism has brought these issues to the front burners. It has made the university pay more attention to these types of incidents.”
Ellison also said that the university would work closely with the Abilene Fire Department in any cases concerning bacteria outbreaks.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, bubonic plague, an infectious though not contagious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium called yersinia pestis, is usually contracted from rodent fleas carrying the bacterium or by handling an infected animal.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics and between 10 to 20 Americans come down with the disease each year. The symptoms of bubonic plague are hard to distinguish, but include swelling, fever and weakness.
Chuck Estes, campus safety officer, added that incidents in the past have been treated quickly and efficiently.
“We would handle any incident very similar to how we handled the anthrax scare last year, doing what we need to do to protect our people,”Estes said.