Man dies of anthrax in Scotland

A MAN from the Scottish Borders who worked with animal hides has died from anthrax, health officials said today.

It is thought to be first human anthrax case in Scotland in about 15 years.

The man died in July at age 50, the officials said. Tests following his death reveal that the unidentifed man died from the disease.

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"Anthrax is a very rare disease and generally presents as a skin infection," Health Protection Scotland said in a statement. "Working with animal hides is known to be a risk factor for acquiring anthrax. He may therefore have acquired this infection accidentally as a result of inhaling spores during the course of work at his home and not from any other source."

NHS Borders said his home in Hawick had been sealed off and an incident control team set up. People who visited the house from 17 July are being asked to contact health authorities even though anthrax is not a disease passed from human to human.

"Anyone who visited the house before July 17, 2006 is not at any significant risk," Health Protection Scotland said. "However, if they experience flu-like symptoms, dry cough or unusual skin lesions for up to two months after their visit they should seek further medical advice as a matter of precaution."

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It most commonly occurs in wild and domestic livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats and camels. The disease can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from infected animals.

The last anthrax scare in Scotland was at a farm in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, where a cow was thought to have died from the disease in 2002. The last reported case of human anthrax in Scotland was in 1991.

In 2000, it was suspected that a batch of heroin may have been contaminated with anthrax toxin, and led to the deaths of 10 people in Scotland.