NEW YORK CITY - February 26, 2006 - Tests done by the City Health Department laboratories on the Crown Heights residence where a man worked on unprocessed hides obtained from the patient diagnosed with anthrax have tested negative for anthrax.
Given the negative test results from this location, 3 people who had previously been started on antibiotics as a precaution, have been told that they can immediately discontinue antibiotics. Four people continue to take preventive antibiotics, though none of then have any symptoms of anthrax infection.
Beginning this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin a cleanup on the patient's apartment and work space. Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, EPA will clean the hallways and other common areas of the patient's apartment building, and residents will be offered the opportunity to have their apartments cleaned if they request it. The extent of cleanup that will take place in the building in Brooklyn where the workspace is located is still being determined.
Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH said, "All evidence continues to indicate that this is an extremely rare event caused by working intensively with infected animal skins. While we continue to investigate this situation, we have every reason to believe there is no risk to people who were not exposed to working with these unprocessed hides."
"EPA is working closely with the city to fast-track a cleanup of areas that have been affected by anthrax from the processing of animal hides in a Brooklyn warehouse," said EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. "Our agency has responded to anthrax incidents in the past and has a great deal of expertise in this area."
Summary of Public Health Investigation thus far:
- A 44 year old man remains hospitalized in serious condition in Pennsylvania. His diagnoses of anthrax related illness was confirmed on February 22.
- Seven contacts of the man who may have been directly exposed to his work with unprocessed animal hides were placed on antibiotics. As mentioned above, three of those people no longer deemed to be at risk were told today to discontinue antibiotics.
- The presence of anthrax has been confirmed in the space in DUMBO where the patient works and the apartment in the West Village where the patient lives. These places are to undergo a cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The cleaning plan for the DUMBO location is still being determined.
- Anthrax was also found in then patient's van. The van has been secured but its final disposition is yet to be determined.
Information about Anthrax:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, animal hides pose a low risk of cutaneous anthrax, and an extremely low risk of inhalation anthrax. Exotic animal hides may pose a higher risk for exposure than domestic (U.S.-origin) hides. The risk of contracting Bacillus anthracis from handling individual hides is believed to be very low. The industrial handling of large numbers of hides, or hair from multiple animals, has historically been associated with increased risk of anthrax. Among the 236 cases of anthrax reported to CDC from 1955 to 1999, 153 (65%) were associated with industrial handling of animal hide or hair. Only 9 of the 153 cases (6%) associated with industrial handling of hair or hide were inhalation anthrax.
Also according to CDC, the last reported case of inhalation anthrax related to work with animal skins in the U.S. occurred 30 years ago. Anthrax occurs in nature and can be found in soil and other locations in the U.S. and abroad. Naturally occurring anthrax is very different from the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks, which had been biologically altered to spread more readily. In 2001, a total of 7 people developed skin anthrax and 1 person developed inhalation anthrax in New York City as a result of this chemically altered, high grade anthrax. The last naturally occurring case of anthrax in New York City was in 1947; there were several dozen cases in the 1920s.
Anthrax is not known to spread from person-to-person. Anthrax is not passed through casual contact, such as sharing office space with a person with anthrax or living in the same building. Anthrax can be obtained by handling products from infected animals and by breathing in anthrax spores from infected animal products, such as wool and hides. For more information about anthrax, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdant.shtml.