Friday, February 24, 2006

A New York-based dancer has contracted respiratory anthrax, apparently after inhaling spores from raw animal hides that he collected in Africa

BBC News:

Diomande is thought to have inhaled spores while treating skins

Vado Diamande is in hospital in a stable condition after collapsing during a performance in the state of Pennsylvania last week.

Diomande, 44, is said to be a skilled drum tuner, and had recently travelled to Africa to collect skins.

Local officials ruled out terrorism and denied any public health threat.

"There is no chance of transmission occurring," Pennsylvania Health Department spokesman Troy Thompson told students at Mansfield University, where the performance took place.

Five people died when several anthrax-laced letters were sent to US public figures in 2001, weeks after the 11 September attacks. The case remains unsolved.

Correspondents say inhalation anthrax has a 75% fatality rate, even with antibiotics.

But the Associated Press news agency quoted friends as saying Diomande was doing "better than expected".

He is thought to have inhaled anthrax spores while treating the hides, though it is not clear whether infection occurred in Africa or the US.

Friends of the dancer told the New York Times newspaper he had been "deathly ill" with a skin condition in 2003 - also possibly anthrax - but somehow survived.

Investigators have been testing hides for contamination at his apartment in the Greenwich Village area of New York City.

Born in the Ivory Coast, Diomande has been dancing since the age of four. He runs a New York-based company performing traditional West African dance and percussion.

His routines include frenetic dancing on stilts while wearing a mask, in which he is said to portray a forest spirit, forming a bridge between his ancestors and the living.

But friends say he is also renowned for his skills with percussion, and is frequently sent drums for tuning by other African performers.

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