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Release: Oct. 11, 2001

Anthrax quantities at UI Hygienic Laboratory are secure

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Security at the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory has been stepped up to safeguard small quantities of a non-virulent vaccine strain of the bacteria that cause anthrax. The Hygienic Laboratory is located on the UI's Oakdale Research Campus. UI Department of Public Safety officers are working with the National Guard, the Iowa State Patrol and Coralville police to provide the added security.

All anthrax specimens at the Hygienic Laboratory have been located and secured. National Guard personnel and UI Public Safety police officers are presently at the scene, said Public Safety Director Chuck Green.

"The Coralville Police Department and the Iowa State Patrol helped secure the Hygienic Laboratory last night, and we're maintaining constant contact with these departments," Green said.

The added security follows Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's order last night (Oct. 10) that the Hygienic Laboratory and other sites around the state with anthrax quantities be secured. The move followed reports yesterday linking the anthrax strain that has killed a Florida man and infected two others to a strain isolated in an unidentified Iowa lab in the 1950s. These reports have not been confirmed.

The anthrax organisms, which have been present at the UI Hygienic Laboratory for about a decade, present no health risks, said Hygienic Laboratory Director Mary Gilchrist.

"The quantity of anthrax at our facility is very small, and the strain is a vaccine strain, which does not have the toxic capabilities that virulent strains do. There is not a public health threat here."

Access to Oakdale Hall, which houses the Hygienic Laboratory and other UI departments and offices, remains open.

"The UI Department of Public Safety and the Hygienic Laboratory have done an outstanding job in responding swiftly to the situation and cooperating with law enforcement agencies, the Governor's Office and the Iowa Department of Public Health," said UI Vice President for Research David Skorton.