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N.H. Woman Swallowed Anthrax, Perhaps From Drum

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Health experts suspect a rare gastrointestinal anthrax case may be linked to a recent drumming circle in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire woman who was stricken with the potentially fatal illness may have swallowed spores released into the air during a drumming exhibition she attended Dec. 4 at the United Campus Ministry center in Durham, the Associated Press reported.

An investigation revealed anthrax spores on two of the hide-covered drums, leading officials to shut down the center this week. After also finding spores on an electrical outlet, officials on Tuesday said antibiotics and vaccines would be available to 60 people who attended the drum circle and another 20 University of New Hampshire students who lived in the building or worked there.

Some health officials are calling this the first case of gastrointestinal anthrax in the United States, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not confirmed that, the AP said.

One theory is that the woman ingested airborne spores propelled from a drum's animal-hide covering. "This was a wild type of anthrax that is found ubiquitously in our environment," said Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, an adviser to the state's public health division. "It can become stirred up or agitated to a place where it briefly suspends in the air, and this patient likely contacted it on her fingers and introduced it into her mouth or inhaled a ... spore into her mouth and then swallowed it," she said.

Two other recent U.S. anthrax cases involved hide-covered African drums, but in those instances the spores were inhaled or permeated the skin.

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EmpowHER Guest

Most forms of the disease are lethal, and it affects both humans and animals. There are now effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.

May 24, 2014 - 8:33am
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