Anthrax scare hits New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health reports that a 10-year-old girl reporting flu-like symptoms who might have been exposed to a non-disease-causing strain of anthrax through her researcher father tested negative for the pathogen.

A private company in collaboration with the University of New Mexico had been conducting experiments with the non-pathogenic strain of Bacillus anthracis, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The bacteria had been found outside of the research room’s protective hood, though no illness due to anthrax has been confirmed in any workers. Lovelace Westside Hospital temporarily diverted traffic from its emergency department after suspecting the child had possibly been exposed to anthrax.

The New Mexico Department of Health ruled out any risk to patients or staff within a few hours, according to the Albuquerque Journal, saying that the situation will cause no risk to the public.

In addition, since lab tests have confirmed the research strain does not cause the disease, officials do not have concerns about pathogenic anthrax for the researchers or the child.

The strain of anthrax most known to the public is the one that was used in the 2001 anthrax attack through the United States postal service. This led to 22 cases of anthrax infection. For those infected with the disease-causing strain of anthrax, victims can be treated using antibiotics and the anthrax vaccine if they are not yet symptomatic. If symptomatic, patients are treated with a 60 day course of antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.