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London anthrax case man 'seriously ill'

Imported drum skins likely source of infection

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A London-based drum-maker who apparently contracted anthrax from imported animal skins is in a "serious but stable" condition in Hackney's Homerton Hospital, the Hackney Gazette reports.

The unnamed victim, said to be Spanish by the Gazette, was diagnosed with the disease on Saturday, and samples were sent to the Porton Down chemical weapons lab for analysis. While health chiefs have stressed there is "no risk to the public", experts from the laboratory will next week enter the workshop to assess the premises for possible decontamination.

Professor Nigel Lightfoot, Chief Advisor at the Health Protection Agency, said: "This patient makes and then plays animal skin drums for a living. It is through making these drums that exposure to and inhalation of anthrax spores on an imported animal hide has taken place. The risk to others who play these drums is very low. It is the process of removing the animal hairs during the making of drums that can put people at risk."

Back in 2006, 50-year-old Christopher Norris from the Scottish Borders died of the disease after "playing or handling West African drums". An enquiry concluded that he'd succumbed to inhalation anthrax - the first such case seen in the UK for over a century.

Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis - commonly seen in cattle, sheep and goats. Infected animals can pass it to humans, but it is not transmitted between people. ®

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