News & Politics

Anthrax: City Hunts Hides


The city’s response to the case of anthrax in Brooklyn-based drum maker Vado Diomande, which Mayor Bloomberg characterized in an afternoon press conference as operating under “an abundance of caution,” is following the skins. And they are leading to some of the wide human networks in which all city dwellers move, sometimes without even realizing it.

Because Diomande appears to have become sick from the untreated animal skins he was using to make drums, health authorities have begun treating a second drum maker and his wife and kid. They are among seven people currently taking antibiotics as a precaution; they show no signs of actually having anthrax, which cannot pass from person to person. “Just to complicate things,” Bloomberg said Friday, the second drum-maker bought his skins from a third man, and police were in the process of “securing” this third guy’s pad this afternoon. Meanwhile, the city is sending letters to parents of students at a public school where Diomande performed a few weeks back, saying there is no risk to the kids. And there are efforts underway to reassure parents of kids at a private school where Diomande taught a class.

One guy, so many connections. (Cue “Rhapsody in Blue” for the following ode to city life). It’d be true for almost anyone in town. How many people have you come into fairly close contact with today, on the subway, outside the coffee shop, in the elevator, at the noon meeting? In the last week? Therein lies the whole aura of the city. There’s a chance you were on the subway with this guy. There’s no risk of your getting sick from him. But you are, in some fleeting way, connected.

Tests have confirmed “low levels of anthrax bacteria” at Diomande’s Greenwich Village apartment, and preliminary tests indicate anthrax bacteria are also at his workplace and in his van. The second drum-maker’s apartment is being tested. Bloomberg cast the test results at “not surprising,” given their sensitivity, and said the city was going to clean all the sites. In addition, the mayor says the city will clean the common areas of the apartment building even though there’s almost no risk of anyone getting infected there. Other tenants in the building can request a cleaning.

So far, the mayor says, all the evidence “continues to be consistent without our initial belief that this is a naturally acquired infection” —a kind so rare that one hasn’t been recorded in the United States in 30 years. “There’s no risk whatsoever,” Bloomberg says of the kids who were in class with Diomande. “That’s just not the way anthrax is communicated.”


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