Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

War experts gave anthrax advice

Decontamination
Warfare experts gave advice on how to decontaminate the hall

Warfare experts from the US and Germany gave advice on decontamination after an anthrax death in the Scottish Borders, a fatal accident inquiry has been told.

UK authorities had so little experience of the disease they got international help after the incident in 2006.

Christopher "Pascal" Norris, 50, of Stobs village near Hawick, died as a result of inhaling anthrax spores.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard there was "limited experience" worldwide in dealing with such clean-up operations.

Early investigations centred on Mr Norris's own home.

However, Dr Colin Ramsay, of Health Protection Scotland, said attention later turned to drumming classes he had attended.

He said he was "surprised" when test results showed Mr Norris was more likely to have caught anthrax while at the classes rather than from cutting up animal skins in his own home.

His house was found to be clear of spores but some were found on drums and at Smailholm village hall near Kelso where classes were held.

Nobody in the UK had been involved in anything like this
Dr Colin Ramsay
Health Protection Scotland

Mr Norris had attended a class there days before he died.

Dr Ramsay said the investigation results had been unexpected.

"We thought he was more likely to have got it from shaving infected drum skins and we were surprised not to find any evidence of that," he said.

"We were equally surprised to find it on the drums themselves and that this turned out to be the most probable explanation for how he came into contact with them."

He said they took advice from warfare experts in Germany and America before instructing US company Sabre to decontaminate the hall using chlorine dioxide gas in March 2007.

"Nobody in the UK had been involved in anything like this," said Dr Ramsay.

"Worldwide there is limited experience of dealing with a situation like this."

The inquiry, before Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen QC, continues.

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