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NY man accidentally poisoned by anthrax

NEW YORK – A New York man has been accidentally exposed to anthrax poisoning, most likely from handling infected animal skins, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

There was no evidence of terrorism or criminal intent, the mayor said. He said the 44-year-old man was believed to have been infected by animal hides he brought back from Africa, and was hospitalized in Pennsylvania, where he became sick.

«At this time we have every reason to believe that this infection is an isolated, accidentally and naturally transmitted case,» Bloomberg told a news conference.

Nobody else was sickened but three other people were being treated with antibiotics as a precaution, Bloomberg said.

Anthrax is an acute, sometimes deadly infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium. While anthrax can grow naturally, it also can be used as a biological weapon.

In 2001, five people died when anthrax was sent in letters to media and government offices in Washington, Florida and elsewhere, raising fears of bioterrorism following the September 11 attacks. Those cases have not been solved.

Anthrax spores are found in soil in many parts of the world, and livestock can become infected by eating contaminated soil or feed. People can then pick up the infection if they come into contact with contaminated hides or other animal parts.

Aides to the mayor said the man was recovering in a hospital in Sayre, Pa., after collapsing during a performance with a dance company. Pennsylvania health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case as inhalation anthrax on Wednesday, the mayor said.

The anthrax attacks killed five people across the country and sickened 17. The attacks are still unsolved.