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Florida Man Dies of Pulmonary Anthrax

Health officials say they don’t know where Bob Stevens contracted the disease, but they believe it is an isolated case.

Stevens was a photo editor at the tabloid paper The Sun. He was the first person in the United States in a quarter-century to contract the inhaled form of anthrax.

A different and more common form of anthrax was reported in Texas earlier this year.

Anthrax can be contracted naturally by handling infected animals, eating contaminated meat or inhaling anthrax spores. It can be treated with antibiotics, but pulmonary anthrax is usually fatal.

Anthrax has been developed in some places as a possible biological weapon, but officials maintain that they have no indication that this case is related to terrorism. The FBI, however, is searching to find where Stevens contracted the disease.

Appearing at the daily White House briefing yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said “this is an isolated case and it’s not contagious.”

Stevens reportedly had recently returned from a trip to North Carolinal. It was initially believed the British-born man had meningitis, but X-rays and other tests showed otherwise. He died on Friday afternoon after antibiotics failed against the infection.

Stevens was said to be an avid outdoorsman, and he may have drank from a creek while hiking. The FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and state investigators searched his house for about two hours on Friday, but removed the yellow crime-scene tape when they left.

A vaccine for the disease does exist, but it is in limited supply and is only available to the military.