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James C. Riley
Distinguished Professor of History

Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Public health pamphlet identifies main threats from bioterrorism

Tells how to best protect self and family

Oct. 11, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A pamphlet is now available to the public identifying the main threats from biological and chemical terrorism and explaining how people can best protect themselves and their families from these threats.

The pamphlet, titled "Bioterrorism and Me," can be viewed online at

During a spring 2005 class on public health at Indiana University Bloomington, students detected a gap in the existing information that people have about bioterrorism.

"It's easy to find out which diseases and chemical agents are considered the likeliest to be used by terrorists, but difficult to find out what to do if these things are used in an attack. So the students decided to draw together the kind of information that ordinary people need to have in order to recognize a threat, and to protect themselves and their families in the event of a threat," said IU Professor James C. Riley, who supervised the students' work on the pamphlet.

Copies of the pamphlet were mailed in July to emergency management agency directors in all Indiana counties, and to public health department directors in counties near Bloomington. Six of them asked for electronic versions of the material so they could distribute it, one asked for permission to place material from the pamphlet in the local newspaper, and one asked for permission to use the pamphlet in training new EMA staff.

"The state health commissioner planned to share the pamphlet with her colleagues at the state Departments of Health and Homeland Security. The EMA director in one county asked for a replacement copy because the public health director in his county took his copy," Riley said.

"Everyone thanked the students for doing such a good job," he added. "The project was remarkably successful."

Jacob Agee, a 2005 IU graduate from Vincennes, Ind., was one of the students who created the pamphlet. Agee emphasized that citizens must be personally prepared for immediate survival during a disaster, whether it is a terrorist attack or a hurricane, until government agencies can respond.

"The recent hurricanes have indicated that local, state and federal responses to disasters of magnitude are effective after the first 24 to 36 hours of a disaster," Agee said. "This provides an example of how citizens must be prepared on a personal level to survive the early stages of a disaster such as a hurricane or a terrorist attack. The booklet can be used to inform the public as to the real dangers of bioterrorism attacks, and it supplies them with information so they can be proactive and knowledgeable in case of an attack. The booklet can give any person a basic knowledge of the steps they can take to protect themselves as best as possible before or after a biological or chemical terrorist attack," he said.

"The students preferred to work on a collective project and were willing to invest the continuing effort, even after the semester, to bring that to success," Riley said. "The content was good, and so was the timing. I gather that Indiana county Emergency Management Agencies and public health leaders were alert for accessible information of good quality to use in training their people and in getting the message out to the public."

More information about the project is available from Riley at 812-855-6334 or Riley can also provide names and contact information for public health officials who can comment on the pamphlet.