NEW YORK -- A New York City drum maker has been hospitalized with a case of inhaled anthrax that officials say he may have contracted from the raw animal hides that he imports from Africa.
Authorities said yesterday that the infection appeared to be accidental -- not terrorism -- and did not pose a serious public health threat.
Vado Diomande, 44, had traveled recently to the west coast of Africa and fell ill in Pennsylvania last week shortly after he returned to this country with some hides, authorities said.
It was not exactly clear how Diomande came into contact with the deadly substance, or whether it happened in Africa or in this country. But aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was related to his job making drums from animal skins.
At least four other people may have been exposed to anthrax spores, including a family member of the infected man who worked with the hides, and three were being treated with antibiotics, city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
''Every indication suggests that this is naturally occurring anthrax," Frieden said.
Authorities were also screening for contaminants at the man's rented work area in Brooklyn, in his vehicle, and in his Manhattan apartment, Bloomberg said.
Anthrax spores are found in soil in many parts of the world, and livestock can become infected by eating contaminated soil or feed. People can then pick up the infection if they come into contact with contaminated hides or other animal parts.
Aides to the mayor said Diomande was recovering in a hospital in Sayre, Pa., after collapsing during a performance with a dance company. Pennsylvania health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case as inhalation anthrax yesterday, the mayor said.
Anthrax infections must be treated early with antibiotics for the best chance of recovery. The inhalation form of the disease has a fatality rate of about 75 percent, even with antibiotics.
Frieden said Diomande was breathing on his own and appeared to be "doing better than people with respiratory anthrax usually do."
Diomande has been a dancer and drummer since he was a child, according to a website for his dance troupe. When he was a teenager he danced with the National Ballet of the Ivory Coast and toured all over the world. He founded his own dance company in 1989, the website said.
Authorities said they were not concerned that the transport of the hides or the finished drums to the United States posed any health risk, because they believe Diomande was infected while treating and working with the materials.
At the Pennsylvania university where he collapsed, students were informed about the anthrax case but were assured they were not in danger. About 100 people attended the performance, according to Terri Day, a university spokesman.
Weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the nation was on high alert as anthrax-laced letters surfaced in several places, including New York City. NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, two US senators and the offices of the New York Post were among the targets.
The anthrax attacks killed five people across the country and sickened 17. The attacks are still unsolved.