Are Region 8 Schools Ready for a Terrorist Attack?

February 22, 2005 – Posted at 6:19 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- Last week U.S. intelligence officials warned that more terrorist attacks are coming. Most experts agree that another attack is inevitable but just how such an attack would be carried out is unknown. One concern is a biological attack.

School nurses nationwide say, if that type of attack occurs, they're not prepared. Most Americans fail to realize that signs of a biological attack could be very subtle. Symptoms could be fevers or rashes and school nurses could be among the first to take notice.

But some nurses are saying they are not ready for such an event. If terrorist picked Region 8 as a biological target a school nurse could be the first to know.

"She sees a huge number of people at once that may begin to have symptoms," said Debbie Persell, Assistant ASU Nursing Professor.

Symptoms aren't dramatic. They're stuff we see everyday in the cold and flu season.

"There would be a fever flu like symptoms where there would be a fever there's going to be some aching, nausea and vomiting," said Persell.

Which raises the question.... would Region 8 school nurses be able to distinguish between viruses or something much more serious?

"Really and truly I don't know that I would know the difference," said Persell.

And she's not alone; nearly 50% of school nurses who responded to a recent survey by the National Association of School Nurses said the same thing.

Persells says we should not be surprised, "Most of us did not even consider that we would we would be faced with a bioterrorism attack when we were in school it wasn't a part of our curriculum."

But now that we live in a post 9/11 world one would think that all medical personnel would be trained but that assumption would be wrong.

"There' s definite lack of knowledge on the part of health care providers in the state of Arkansas," said Persells.