A 50-year-old man who died on 8 July in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is believed to be the first case of anthrax in Scotland since 1987, the BBC reports.
Christopher "Pascal" Norris worked with untreated animal hides at his home at Black Lodge in Stobs in the Scottish Borders. Tests at laboratories in England after his death from septicaemia "identified anthrax as the most likely cause". Accordingly, Norris's house was cordoned off and an incident control team sent in.
A Health Protection Scotland spokesperson said: "NHS Borders is tracing the man's relatives and other individuals known to have had access to the building. They are being assessed for risk of infection, with appropriate action being taken for each individual as required."
Scotland's last case of the disease involved a young girl who was infected but later recovered. NHS Borders medical director, Dr Ross Cameron, explained: "To put this in perspective this is the first death from anthrax that has occurred in the UK for something like 30 years, so it is a very unusual situation.
"There is no risk to the general public - it's an isolated case. There has been one death and the contacts we have followed up have shown no signs of symptoms of any illness."
Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, and commonly occurs in cattle, sheep and goats, the BBC notes. It can be passed from infected animals to humans, but is not transmitted between people.
Bacteriologist professor Hugh Pennington expressed surprise at the death and said he suspected the infection may been caused by imported hides. He said: "It's very rare for people to get infected from it, never mind to die from the disease. People working in the wool industry used to be prone 50 years ago.
"The disease occurs in the wild in Africa and Asia and used to get imported. But it is now very uncommon in the UK due to better cleansing procedures. If this man was working with imported animal hides that had been infected, then that makes sense." ®