Woman in NH contracts anthrax, possibly from African drums

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Dec 26 2009 - 8:40pm

Spores that may have been on a drum are cited as a possible source of anthrax, contracted by a woman in New Hampshire. The woman attended a drumming circle recently, leading to suspicion of the source of the potentially deadly infection. The woman, from Strafford County is in critical condition, and officials are urging other African drum owners to consider testing for bacterial spores.

The woman has a form of gastrointestinal anthrax, one of several types caused by the bacteria. Anthrax can be inhaled, causing lung infection, transmitted hand to mouth, or by consuming infected undercooked meat, causing gastrointestinal symptoms. Anthrax can also cause skin infection.

According to the CDC, "The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs include nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Symptoms may also include lesions and soreness in the throat, difficulty swallowing, marked swelling of the neck and regional lymph glands. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases."

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The NH woman with gastrointestinal anthrax took part in a drum circle event at the United Campus Ministry at the University of New Hampshire, and became ill early December.

So far there are no other public cases of anthrax suspected, but health officials are keeping a watchful eye on new developments, urging drum owners who attended the drum events between October and December to have their drums tested. Drums at the campus ministry group are being tested for anthrax.

According to state public health director Dr. Jose Montero, the public is not at risk. "We haven't seen any signals that may point toward (more) cases. We have increased our surveillance, but we have no evidence to think there are more cases out there."

You may remember the anthrax inhalation deaths that happened in 2001 when a powder containing anthrax bacteria was sent in envelopes to two US Senators, and journalists, causing at least four deaths. The anthrax deaths, dubbed Amerithrax by the FBI followed the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Anthrax is found all over the world, and is more prevalent in underdeveloped nations. An anthrax vaccine is licensed for humans, and is recommended by the CDC for persons who handle animal hides.

Source: AP Health News

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