Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services DHHS) has confirmed a case of gastrointestinal anthrax in an adult female rom Strafford County. The patient is currently in critical condition. DHHS’ Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating the source of the anthrax. The source of the anthrax is not yet clear, but DPHS believes the anthrax to be naturally occurring from the environment. There is no risk to the public, but DPHS and its partners are taking every step possible to find the source.
“Our thoughts and concerns are with this patient and her family,” said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. “This is a difficult and unusual situation, and we are committing all possible resources to determining the cause of this exposure as quickly as possible.”
There are three types of anthrax infections: inhalation, cutaneous, and gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal anthrax is characterized by acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. The incubation period can be anywhere from 3 – 60 days.
There have been 11 cases of naturally occurring anthrax in the United States since 1957. One occurred recently in New York City and one in Connecticut that were related to animal hides. Approximately 2000 cases of cutaneous naturally occurring disease are reported annually worldwide. Person-to-person transmission of anthrax is extremely unlikely, as the disease is caused by a spore that is ingested, inhaled or enters through a cut in the skin. The last cases of anthrax that were diagnosed in New Hampshire were back in 1957 when there were 9 cases (4 cutaneous and 5 inhalation) in employees of a textile mill in Manchester.
“We are working with many partners to conduct a thorough investigation,” said Public Health Director Dr. José Montero. “At this point we’ve alerted physicians, we have increased our surveillance measures, and we are talking with our federal partners as well to look at all possible sources that may play a part in this case.” One of the possibilities being examined is African drums. “Even though it is a remote possibility for transmission, public health officials are requesting owners of African drums who attended African drummers circle events at the UNH campus ministries from October to early December 2009 to contact DPHS at 271-4496 to discuss the possibility of having their drums tested.”
For more information about anthrax, visit www.emergency.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/ or www.dhhs.nh.gov. Anyone with questions about anthrax can call DHHS’ Division of Public Health Services at 271-4496 or the Centers for Disease Control at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Click Here for a Fact Sheet on Anthrax