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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Man dies from 'rare anthrax bug'
Pascal Norris
Christopher Norris worked with untreated animal hides
A 50-year-old man is believed to have died from the first case of anthrax in Scotland for almost 20 years.

The man, named locally as Christopher "Pascal" Norris, died in July and later tests showed the acute infectious disease was the most likely cause.

NHS Borders said his home at Black Lodge in Stobs, near Hawick in the Scottish Borders, had been cordoned off and an incident control team set up.

The victim made drums with materials such as untreated animal hides.

Mr Norris, an artist, died on 8 July in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

After a series of tests at laboratories in England, experts identified anthrax as the most likely cause for septicaemia.

'Original person'

Claire Clarke, Mr Norris' sister-in-law, said he thought he had picked up a bug when he fell ill at the beginning of the week.

"The day before he went to hospital he was actually feeling better but then he had a very bad night and felt quite weak," she said.

"When he went to see a doctor the next day, an ambulance was called immediately.

"He collapsed quite soon after arriving at hospital. I don't think he ever regained consciousness and died within 24 hours of his arrival."

Mrs Clarke described her brother-in-law as "quite an original person" who had been a Buddhist for most of his life.

She said the family had been informed at the weekend that Mr Norris died from anthrax.

All appropriate precautions are being taken to deal with the house and its contents
Health Protection Scotland spokesperson

The disease is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

It most commonly occurs in animals such as cattle, sheep and goats but can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals.

Health Protection Scotland said it was not passed from person to person.

"All appropriate precautions are being taken to deal with the house and its contents," said a HPS spokesperson.

"NHS Borders is tracing the man's relatives and other individuals known to have had access to the building.

"They are being assessed for risk of infection, with appropriate action being taken for each individual as required."

"To put this in perspective this is the first death from anthrax that has occurred in the UK for something like 30 years, so it is a very unusual situation," said NHS Borders medical director Dr Ross Cameron.

"There is no risk to the general public - it's an isolated case.

"There has been one death and the contacts we have followed up have shown no signs of symptoms of any illness."

The last laboratory-confirmed case of anthrax in Scotland was in 1987 and affected a young girl who later recovered.

it is now very uncommon in the UK due to better cleansing procedures
Prof Hugh Pennington

Leading bacteriologist, Prof Hugh Pennington said he was very surprised to hear someone could have died from anthrax in the UK.

He added that it would have been possible to have become infected from imported animal hides.

"It's very rare for people to get infected from it, never mind to die from the disease," he said.

"People working in the wool industry used to be prone 50 years ago.

"The disease occurs in the wild in Africa and Asia and used to get imported.

"But it is now very uncommon in the UK due to better cleansing procedures.

"If this man was working with imported animal hides that had been infected, then that makes sense."

NHS Borders has set up an advice line for anyone concerned. The number is 08000 282816.


Precautions being taken after the death of Mr Norris

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