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17 August 2006

KILLED BY ANTHRAX FROM HIS BONGOS

Infected animal hides gave drum maker rare disease

By Maggie Barry

AN artist who made bongo drums with imported animal skins died of anthrax, health officials revealed yesterday.

Self-employed Christopher Norris, 50, is the first victim of the disease in the UK for 32 years.

And last night health authorities said others were still at risk - as they quarantined and boarded up Mr Norris's home.

Family and friends who have been in recent contact or visited the house in the Scottish Borders were being interviewed.

Ten people are being given medical treatment "as a precaution". Health officials are trying to trace another 20.

It is feared Mr Norris picked up anthrax from animal hide he used to make his drums.

A Health Protection Scotland spokesman said: "His home has been sealed and is being investigated for risk of anthrax spores in the environment.

"Anyone who visited it after July 17 should contact the NHS.

If they experience flu-like symptoms, dry cough or unusual skin lesions they should seek further medical advice."

Mr Norris, a gifted craftsman known as Pascal, fell ill last month. He died on July 8 in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after developing septicaemia.

Family and friends had no inkling of anthrax and held a wake at his home on July 17.

The house has a workshop where he made musical instruments and other artefacts with materials including imported hides. His ashes were scattered there at another get-together on July 29.

Meanwhile doctors concerned at how Mr Norris's illness developed sent samples for testing at labs at Porton Down in Wiltshire.

On August 11 they were told his death had been caused by the rare pulmonary anthrax which he had contracted by inhaling spores.

Health officials later decided to go public because they wanted to trace everyone who had been in Mr

Norris's home recently. NHS Borders medical chief Ross Cameron said: "Immediate action has been taken and the property secured.

"There is no risk to the general public because there is no personal transmission of the disease."

The 10 being treated had all been in the house in the past six weeks and were being given antibiotics.

None have reported symptoms which could indicate infection.

One of them is a close personal friend who spent time at the dying man's hospital bedside. The others are understood to have been at the wake at his home. The last human death from anthrax in the UK was in 1974. Leading bacteriologist Prof Hugh Pennington said: "It is very rare for people to get infected."

But he added: "If this man was working with imported animal hides that had anthrax, then that makes sense. The spores could have been on the skin and he could have breathed them in."

Mr Norris, a Buddhist who beat leukaemia four years ago, is survived by his mother and brother.

He lived on his own in his isolated cottage at Stobs, near Hawick in Roxburghshire.

Neighbour Jenny Mutch said: "He was a man in the prime of life and very fit.

"He was talented and modest with a very sweet nature and was just a genuinely nice person.

"Everyone was really devastated when they heard."

Last night a police van was outside the house and officers were stopping people going in.

RARE AND DEADLY BUG

ANTHRAX is a bacterial infection which occurs most commonly in wild and domestic animals in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.

Humans are rarely infected but spores can survive in the environment for many years. The most common of the three human forms is cutaneous anthrax which is picked up on animal hides - it accounts for 95 per cent of cases. It causes blisters and is treated with antibiotics.

Pulmonary anthrax is much less common and creates flu-like symptoms. Untreated it is almost always fatal.

Intestinal anthrax is caused by eating contaminated meat and is usually fatal.

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I'm Catholic.

But how come nobody ever finds a bagel or a banana peel that looks like Carrot Top or Richard Nixon? I figure Jesus, Mary and Joseph have better things to do than appear to the simplminded folk in their groceries.

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The spirit of lawsuits is alive and well not only here but in Russia:

Alyona Gabitova has taken Russian forecasters to court for ruining her holiday. She claimed she had been promised 28 degrees and sunshine during her camping trip to a nature park but instead got wet through because it poured the whole time. She says she came back from the trip with a cold.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/oddspot/index.html

Note: 28 degrees is in celsius

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Mass peel off starts in strip poker championship

Aug 19, 11:35 AM (ET)

Players take part in the World Strip Poker Championship in London August 19,

LONDON (Reuters) - Up to 200 strip poker players competed on Saturday to see who will lose their shirts -- and more -- and who will scoop 10,000 pounds by retaining their clothes and modesty.

Organized by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, the inaugural World Strip Poker Championship takes place at the prestigious Cafe Royal in central London with players battling it out in games of "No Limit Texas Hold 'em."

The bookmaker said it decided to hold the competition after its spoof April Fool earlier this year generated a lot of interest.

Players of both sexes from over 12 countries are battling it out for the "Gold Fig Leaf" trophy and the right to revel in the title of World Strip Poker Champion.

Aside from strict rules governing the poker play, there are clear guidelines on the stripping element -- most importantly that each player starts the match by wearing five items of clothing supplied by the organizers.

Each contestant has been given a towel to sit on and to cover themselves when naked, but only after they have stripped completely.

"Inappropriate behavior," will not be tolerated, said the organizers.

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