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Anthrax death sparks London health alert

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  • Health experts examine home of London drum-maker who died from anthrax
  • Fernando Gomez had been in intensive care for days but died on Sunday
  • Anthrax is contagious infection; usually afflicts livestock, sometimes humans
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LONDON, England -- Health experts were on Monday examining the home and workshop of a London drum-maker who died after inhaling anthrax spores while handling imported animal skins.

Fernando Gomez, 35, from east London, had been in intensive care for several days but died on Sunday, hospital officials said.

Gomez's flat was sealed off by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for examination and checks were taking place at his workshop, which is also in the borough of Hackney.

Seven people who came into contact with the skins received antibiotics as a precautionary measure, the UK's Press Association reported, but the HPA said no one had developed symptoms.

Professor Nigel Lightfoot, the HPA's chief adviser, said local residents were not at risk.

"It is important to stress that it is the making of animal skin drums that is the risk for coming into contact with anthrax rather than playing or handling drums," he told PA.

"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."

Jules Pipe, the mayor of Hackney, added: "It is through making these drums that exposure to and inhalation of anthrax spores on an imported animal hide occurred. "This is an extremely rare case and this type of anthrax cannot be passed from person to person."

Anthrax is a contagious infection that usually only afflicts livestock, but humans who handle or eat infected animals can contract it. Anthrax inhalation is very rare, and is not contagious.

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