Pennsylvania Department of Health Continues to Monitor Anthrax Case; Patient's Status Changed to Serious Due to Respiratory Difficulties

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson said today that while the public health threat to the Mansfield community in Pennsylvania is minimal as a result of an apparently accidental anthrax incident earlier this week, the department will continue its work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Department of Health to investigate and monitor the situation.

"I want to assure members of the Mansfield community that there have been no additional cases, or suspected cases, of anthrax," Johnson said. "New York City, where the man and his family and associates live, continues to take the lead in this ongoing investigation."

Johnson said the 44-year-old New York City man who tested positive for a case of inhalational anthrax remains hospitalized at the Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., and has had his condition changed to serious due to respiratory difficulties.

"This is a very critical time in the recovery of this patient and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to him and his family," Johnson said. "Our immediate concern continues to be the health of this individual, his family and the public."

Johnson also noted that environmental tests conducted by the CDC and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the patient's storage/work facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., residence, and vehicle used in New York City indicated the presence of anthrax spores in all three locations.

Earlier in the week, Johnson dispatched a team of state public health professionals to Mansfield University in Tioga County -- where the patient performed and subsequently fell ill -- to conduct a public information session to address any concerns or anxiety due to the identification of anthrax. The public health officials met with members of the Mansfield University community.

Johnson added that there is no indication that the exposure was from an intentional release of anthrax.  The patient has a history of contact with unprocessed animal hides and recently purchased unprocessed hides in Africa, which were then transported to New York City and worked on by the patient. Unprocessed animal hides can be a source of anthrax spores.

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes and other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from infected animals.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

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