Page last updated at 19:46 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Drum maker is treated for anthrax

Nepalese drummers at festival
Drums are traditionally made with tanned animal hides

An east London man is seriously ill in hospital after inhaling anthrax spores contained in animal hides.

The man came into contact with the hides at his drum making workshop in Hackney, health officials said.

Seven other people who may have been in contact with the hides are being treated with antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said it is attempting to trace where the infected skins originated.

Professor Nigel Lightfoot, the HPA's chief adviser, stressed that the man's neighbours in his flat and near his workshop - both of which are in Hackney - are not at risk of exposure to the potentially fatal bacteria.

'No risk'

"There is no risk to the inhabitants of this block of flats, or the wider residents in the area," he said. "The patient's property is currently secured and there is no one living there."

The seven people currently taking antibiotics were potentially in close contact with the animal skins. The victim has not been identified.

Mr Lightfoot said the risk was limited to drum makers and others who work with animal hides, which can contain spores of the bacteria that survive the tanning process.

"It is important to stress that it is the making of animal skin drums that is the risk for coming into contact with anthrax rather than playing or handling drums."

There have only been a handful of recorded cases in the UK in the past decade.

In 2006 Christopher Norris, 50, a craftsman from Stobs, near Hawick in Scotland, died of anthrax.

Mr Norris made artworks and musical instruments, including drums.

Anthrax, which occurs naturally, has also been developed for use as a biological weapon.

A series of anthrax attacks sent via the post in America in the weeks after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks killed five people.

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