Bongo maker gets anthrax from African animal skins
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.”