Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Man dies after inhaling anthrax

Security guard outside Fernando Gomez's workshop in Hackney
Mr Gomez's workshop in Hackney, east London, has been sealed off

A drum-maker who inhaled anthrax spores while handling imported animal skins at his workshop has died in hospital.

Fernando Gomez, 35, from Hackney in east London, had been in the intensive care unit of Homerton University Hospital for more than a week.

A hospital spokesman confirmed he died from inhalation anthrax rather than cutaneous anthrax, which is contracted through the skin.

Eight other people have been given antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said it was attempting to trace where the infected skins originated.

A hospital spokesman said his condition had deteriorated overnight and that he died on Sunday afternoon.

Flat sealed off

The HPA has sealed off his flat in Hackney and will examine his workshop this week.

Its chief adviser, Professor Nigel Lightfoot, said residents who lived near the flat or workshop were not at risk.

He stressed the risk of coming into contact with anthrax came from the making of animal skin drums not playing or handling them.

He said: "We are, however, keen to reiterate to all individuals who make drums from imported animal skins that there is a risk of coming into contact with anthrax and that they should ensure they are aware of this and take precautions to protect themselves when making these drums."

The threat to the general public is very small and it is extremely unusual for anthrax to be transmitted from person to person.

The last death of this kind in Britain was in 2006 when Christopher Norris, 50, a craftsman from Stobs, near Hawick in Scotland, died after inhaling anthrax.

Mr Norris made artworks and also musical instruments, including drums.

A fatal accident inquiry into his death is due to take place on 18 November at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

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