Anthrax Case Identified in PA

A 44-year-old New York City resident, who performed at a recent musical event in Mansfield, Pa., has tested positive for a case of inhalational anthrax, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson.

The man is a patient at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., and is in stable condition. Johnson said the man poses no public health threat of transmitting anthrax to the community or the health care providers caring for him.

The man performed last week as part of Kotchegna, a dance company that appeared at Steadman Theatre. After leaving the performance, the man collapsed and was taken to a local hospital. On Feb. 17, blood tests were taken and by Feb. 20, the tests began to indicate the possible presence of anthrax.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health was notified by the hospital, and a sample was sent to the DOH laboratory for further testing. On Feb. 21, the laboratory tests detected anthrax bacteria and a public health investigation began. Because the man is from New York City, the DOH notified the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.

According to Johnson, a team consisting of representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the FBI and the CDC are investigating the case to determine how the patient was exposed to anthrax.

At this time, there is no indication that the exposure was from an intentional release of anthrax. The patient has a history of contact with unprocessed animal hides and recently traveled to Africa, where he purchased unprocessed hides, which were then transported to New York City. The patient makes drums from the unprocessed animal hides. Unprocessed animal hides can be a source of anthrax spores.

"The Department of Health has already sent a team of public health experts to Mansfield University to talk with and answer questions from any member of the community who may have attended the musical event on Thursday, Feb. 16, at Mansfield University where the man performed. While there is no public health threat, we are making public health professionals available to provide direct information to anyone who is concerned."

Transmission of anthrax from human to human is extremely rare. Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes and other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from infected animals.

An ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Pennsylvania and New York City departments of health in coordination with the FBI and New York City law enforcement. The investigation includes an environmental assessment of the patient's storage/work facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his home, and outreach to individuals who may have had contact with the unprocessed hides or the storage/work facility where the hides were processed, as well as members of the dance company, who are all from New York City.

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