BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 5 October, 2001, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Anthrax victim dies in Florida
Laboratory workers making anthrax vaccine
The UK makes the only licensed anthrax vaccine
A man of British descent has died in the US after contracting the rarest form of anthrax.

Robert Stevens, 63, died at 2100BST on Friday at the JFK Medical Centre in Palm Beach, Florida, after contracting pulmonary anthrax.

Health officials believe he got the infection by inhaling spores of the anthrax bacteria, the rarest way to become ill with the disease.

His death is the first case of pulmonary anthrax in America since the 1970s, and one of only a handful in the country in the past 100 years.

'Isolated case'

The FBI and the US Centre for Disease Control are investigating but have ruled out the possibility that Mr Stevens was the victim of a terrorist attack.

Public health officials are now searching his home and car to try to find the source of the anthrax spores.

He is believed to have contracted the infection about 10 days ago, at or near his home in Lantana, Florida.

One theory is that he may have been drinking from a local creek.

But officials have warned the source of the infection may never be found.

US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson said such incidents were very rare, adding: "This is an isolated case and it's not contagious."

He added that the "heightened level of disease monitoring" because of the 11 September terror strikes could have meant the infection was spotted more quickly.

Anthrax has been developed by some countries as a possible biological weapon, but the disease can be contracted naturally.

Breathing difficulties

Bacterial spores can be found in soil and are often carried by livestock.

Mr Stevens had been admitted to the hospital suffering from confusion and vomiting and his condition quickly deteriorated.

The infection is treatable with penicillin in its early phases but without treatment it can cause severe breathing difficulty and is fatal in most cases.

The BBC's Jane Warr
"Health officials have said this case was not the result of a biological attack"
Dr Richard Ross, specialist in infectious diseases
says anthrax cannot be spread from person to person contact
See also:

05 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
25 Jul 01 | Americas
Q&A: Germ warfare
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories