Bongo maker gets an­thrax from African an­i­mal skins

Daily Express - - NEWS - By El­lie Grif­fiths

A MU­SI­CIAN struck down by an­thrax poi­son­ing is thought to have caught the rare ill­ness from an­i­mal hides he was us­ing to make African bongo drums.

He is thought to have come into con­tact with its deadly spores while re­mov­ing hair from the skins in his work­shop.

The Span­ish-born vic­tim, who has not been named, was last night in a “crit­i­cal but sta­ble” con­di­tion in hospi­tal.

His ill­ness is so rare that spe­cial medicines have had to be flown in from Amer­ica.

Health au­thor­i­ties have iden­ti­fied seven peo­ple who came into con­tact with the pa­tient and may have been ex­posed to the dis­ease dur­ing the mak­ing of the drums in Hack­ney, east Lon­don, last week. They have all been treated with an­tibi­otics and have shown no signs of in­fec­tion.

Hack­ney Coun­cil said it was not re­veal­ing where the pa­tient lived for “con­fi­den­tial­ity rea­sons”. It added that the block of flats where he lived had not been evac­u­ated.

An­thrax in­fec­tions as­so­ci­ated with the han­dling of un­tanned an­i­mal hides are very rare in this coun­try. Im­ported an­i­mal hides from Africa and Asia pose a higher risk of ex­po­sure than hides from the UK. The Health Pro­tec­tion Agency, which has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said the in­fec­tion was a very rare case of in­hala­tion an­thrax and was not passed from per­son to per­son.

A spokes­woman added: “We will be car­ry­ing out some test­ing at the pa­tients’ work­shop at the start of next week.

“We want to en­sure that there is no risk to in­hab­i­tants of the block of flats or the wider com­mu­nity.”

Pro­fes­sor Nigel Lightfoot, the agency’s chief ad­viser, said: “It is through mak­ing th­ese drums that ex­po­sure to and in­hala­tion of an­thrax spores on an im­ported an­i­mal hide has taken place.

“We have been work­ing with Hack­ney Coun­cil to en­sure that all res­i­dents of the prop­erty have been com­mu­ni­cated with and have had an op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions.

“There is no risk to the in­hab­i­tants of this block of flats or the wider res­i­dents in the area.

“If test­ing re­veals the pres­ence of an­thrax spores, spe­cial­ist clean­ing will be car­ried out to re­move any trace of an­thrax from the prop­erty. We have stressed to all res­i­dents that there is no risk to their health.”

The pro­fes­sor added: “It is im­por­tant that any­one who makes drums from im­ported hides is aware of the risk and knows the symp­toms of an­thrax, which be­gin with a flu­like ill­ness fol­lowed by res­pi­ra­tory dif­fi­cul­ties and shock.

“If treated too late it can be fa­tal. How­ever, treat­ment can be given even af­ter symp­toms de­velop.”

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