Investigation into N.H. anthrax outbreak ongoing

Public health investigators have confirmed that two African drums stored at the University of New Hampshire United Campus Ministry have tested positive for anthrax.

The positive tests follow the announcement that an unidentified woman contracted rare gastrointestinal anthrax after attending a drum circle at the Durham center. The woman is in critical condition.

The Campus Ministry, which is unaffiliated with the University of New Hampshire, has been closed by the state while tests are continued on the drums. Drum owners who attended the event are also being alerted that they may potentially be tested.

More than 50 people are believed to have attended the event and approximately six have contacted state health officials.

More than 30 drums are stored at the Campus Ministry's Durham building. The Strafford County woman who contracted the gastrointestinal anthrax, however, brought her own synthetic drum, not one made of goat animal skin, which was considered a possible source of anthrax.

As a result, other sources, including soil, drug and food, are being investigated as part of a probe to determine the anthrax's origin.

In addition, environmental samples from the Campus Ministry building and its drums were collected by the New Hampshire National Guard, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for testing.

To date, test samples from two drums stored by the ministry have come back positive for anthrax, which has not been determined as the source of the infection.

“Gastrointestinal anthrax is very unusual,” Public Health Director Dr. José Montero said. “We have not yet been able to confirm that the drums are the cause of the patient’s illness and we are continuing to follow up many leads. Anthrax is not an illness that you can catch from someone else.”