Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Drummer contracts anthrax from drumheads

New York man falls ill with anthrax
Musician reportedly had contact with natural anthrax sources

(CNN) -- A New York musician has tested positive for anthrax that authorities say came from unprocessed animal skins used to make traditional African instruments.

He is in stable condition at a Pennsylvania hospital, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

"The man poses no public health threat of transmitting anthrax to the community or the health care providers caring for him," the department said in a statement. (What is anthrax?)

The 44-year-old man recently traveled to Africa, where he bought animal hides and took them back to New York City to make drums, the department said.

The man, who plays native African music, complained of flu-like symptoms before collapsing last week at the end of the Kotchegna Dance Company show at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, sources said.

The department said he was taken to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles northeast of Mansfield.

Blood tests were taken Friday, and on Tuesday the tests detected anthrax bacteria in the man's system, according to the state health department.

"At this time, there is no indication that the exposure was from an intentional release of anthrax," according to a release from the department. "The patient has a history of contact with unprocessed animal hides and recently traveled to Africa, where he purchased unprocessed hides."

It adds, "Unprocessed animal hides can be a source of anthrax spores."

Anthrax bacteria lie dormant in tough cells called spores until conditions are favorable for them to infect animals or humans.

New York City and federal authorities discussed the case at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, where they assured the public that the incident does not pose a health threat. (Watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg explain how the case is an isolated one -- 3:27)

The FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting local authorities in the investigation.

It includes an assessment of the patient's home and workspace in Brooklyn. Authorities also are trying to find anyone who might have had contact with the hides as well as members of the dance company, who are all from New York City, according to the state health department news release.

Dr. Calvin B. Johnson, the department's secretary, said a team of health experts has been sent to Mansfield University, and a public meeting was scheduled at the university Wednesday evening.

CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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