by Pia K. Hansen
Hot ticket -- SPOKANE -- Listen up, sports fans. You know the 2003 NCAA men's basketball teams will play their first and second rounds at the Spokane Arena. That's six games in two days, right here in River City. Now just try getting tickets for them.
There are about 12,000 tickets for the event, going on sale starting in January. About half of these are spoken for from the participating teams and sponsors. The host school -- Washington State University -- will likely gobble up several hundred more, according to Arena General Manager Kevin Twohig.
Of the 6,000 or so remaining tickets, first dibs go to people who purchased tickets in their first six months of availability for last spring's NCAA women's tournament at the Arena. Those people get to buy tickets this month for the 2003 men's tournament. In February, the later ticket buyers from that women's tournament get their shots at the 2003 tickets.
"If you bought women's tickets, we're going to make sure you get in," says Twohig.
That leaves perhaps 3,000 of the $165-a-seat tickets to next year's men's basketball tournament, "at most," says Twohig. Quite a scramble. People who want these remaining tickets must place orders in March and April. The deadline is April 26. These orders will be sold by lottery.
So, says Twohig, the bottom line is this: Anyone who didn't buy tickets for this year's tournament must enter the lottery.
The men's tournament will be twice as large as the four-team women's, says Amy Brown, assistant general manager. "This time around, we have eight sets of teams, eight sets of bands, eight sets of cheerleaders, eight sets of fans."
Large concern -- SPOKANE -- A global effort eradicated smallpox in the 1970s, and it's a good thing: The disease makes anthrax look like a case of the sniffles. Smallpox is contagious, airborne and fatal for about one of every four victims. Defense officials speculate that if terrorists released a biological weapon on a large scale, smallpox might be their disease of choice.
That's why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have started working with medical workers around the country to learn how to diagnose smallpox, which causes a high fever and a deep rash in its victims.
"The whole point is to educate health care providers on what to look for" in case of a bioterror attack, says Melanie Rose, public information officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. One of 200 state public health officers attending a CDC training meeting two weeks ago was Bill Edstrom, a staff epidemiologist and bioterrorism surveillance coordinator at the health district.
As for tracking communicable diseases, "That's something we do every day," says Rose. The Health District has four epidemiologists, who gather information on 62 diseases from area hospitals and clinics.
The CDC also recently broadcast a 90-minute video to health care workers nationally. Sacred Heart and Deaconess hospitals have taped the video and made it available to regional health workers at their libraries, say officials there. The probability of a smallpox outbreak or attack is probably remote, says Roy Almeida, epidemiologist at Sacred Heart. But it's better to be safe than sorry, he says: "It could get pretty scary, pretty quickly."