ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Health officials in Minnesota are investigating an apparent case of inhalation anthrax in an individual who officials believe acquired the infection from the natural environment.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the individual was hospitalized in Minnesota after traveling through western states, including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Laboratory analysis in Minnesota confirmed the diagnosis of anthrax.
The MDH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the investigation. Because anthrax can be used as a bioterrorism agent, the FBI was involved in the investigation, but since there is no evidence suggesting it was a criminal or terrorist act, they are no longer actively investigating the incident.
Health officials say that this case does not represent an increased risk of anthrax to the public.
“All evidence points to this case of anthrax being caused by exposure to naturally occurring anthrax in the environment,” said Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield.
In rare cases, individuals can become sickened by anthrax if they handle infected animal carcasses or ingest contaminated soil or meat from infected animals. The individual apparently had exposure to soil and animal remains.
Because these cases are so rare, health officials are not discouraging people from traveling to areas where anthrax can be found naturally in the environment.
More information on anthrax, symptoms and treatment, visit the MDH website.