NH DHHS Announces New Findings in Investigation of NH Anthrax Case

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) has confirmed a third sample has tested positive for anthrax. This third sample is an environmental sample collected from the United Campus Ministry building in Durham over the weekend. The building has been closed until further notice under an order from DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas.

Earlier test results confirmed that two separate drums stored at the Ministry building are contaminated with anthrax. The Public Health Labs have submitted samples from the drums and the patient to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if they are the same.

“This new information indicates there is a low level of contamination in the drum room at the Ministry building,” said Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, Medical Advisor to DPHS. “This has prompted us to offer antibiotics and the anthrax vaccine to anyone who was at the drumming circle on December 4, 2009. We are contacting these individuals and discussing possible treatment options with them. Even though the risk of being infected remains low for these individuals, we’re taking these precautionary measures.” At this point public health officials believe the patient may have become infected at a drumming circle that took place in the Ministry building in Durham on December 4th.

Because of the possible link to the African drums, DHHS is asking anyone who brought their own drum to the drumming circle held at the United Campus Ministry on December 4th to call DPHS at 271-4496 to discuss the possibility of having their drum tested.

DPHS, along with the Department of Environmental Services, and the US Environmental Protection Agency are working closely with Durham public safety officials and officials at the University of New Hampshire on a location where residents can drop off their drums in the coming days and weeks for testing.

The patient from Strafford County was confirmed with gastrointestinal anthrax, which is very unusual. Of the three types of anthrax infections: inhalation, cutaneous, and gastrointestinal, it is the most rare. Anthrax is not an illness that you can catch from someone else.

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.