Anthrax on African Djembe Drums


Anthrax on African Drums - FAQ  

What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is a bacteria that exists naturally in certain parts of the world.  Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores, when they eat soil containing Anthrax spores. But it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or to tissue from infected animals.

Can I get Anthrax from playing African or Djembe Drums?
The risk of acquiring anthrax from an animal hide drum is very low. Of 236 cases of anthrax reported to CDC from 1955 through 1999, only one case of cutaneous anthrax was associated with a goat hide bongo drum purchased in Haiti

Can importers of African Drums guarantee their drums are Anthrax free?
Some importers claim to “inspect” for Anthrax.  However, drums can not simply be inspected for Anthrax.  The detection process for determining if Anthrax is present requires a culture or sample from each goat skin or animal.  The culture then needs to be grown in a lab certified to handle Anthrax.  Only a laboratory can produce accurate results.

Do importers test for anthrax?
We don’t believe drum importers or Djembe dealers are testing for Anthrax.  It is our opinion this process is simply not cost justifiable given the risk. There is no economical method to ensure drums are Anthrax free.  If drum importers or Djembe dealers were to have each drum tested, the cost of the drums would be much greater.

Can I inspect or test for Anthrax?
The method for determining if Anthrax is present requires laboratory procedures.  There is no field procedure to detect Anthrax.  The detection process for determining if Anthrax is present requires one to take a culture or sample from the goat skin head.  The culture then needs to be grown in a lab where controlled results can detect the presence of Anthrax spores or the infection.  The lab testing for Anthrax would also need to be certified to grow Anthrax.  Not any lab would be allowed to perform these tests.

Should I buy a Djembe with a synthetic drum head?
This is a matter of personal preference. Natural skin drum heads are more gentle on your hands than plastic or synthetic heads.  Synthetic heads have no risk of containing Anthrax.  According to CDC the risk of Anthrax from playing a Djembe drums is very low.

How can I tell if I have an animal or a synthetic skin on my African drum?
Natural animal skin heads will contain imperfections and blemishes. Natural skin heads also respond to moisture.  An easy test is to lay a moist rag on your drum head for a few minutes.  If the pitch of the drum drops, the head is made from a natural skin.  When the head dries out, the pitch will rise back to its original tone.

What is the risk of getting Anthrax from re-heading or re-skinning an African Djembe drum?
Animal hides pose a low risk of cutaneous (skin) anthrax, and an extremely low risk of inhalation anthrax. Exotic animal hides may pose a higher risk for exposure than domestic (U.S.-origin) hides. The risk of contracting Anthrax from handling individual hides is believed to be very low. Among the 236 cases of anthrax reported to Center for Disease Control (CDC) from 1955 to 1999, 153 (65%) were associated with industrial handling of animal hide or hair. Only 9 of the 153 cases (6%) associated with industrial handling of hair or hide were inhalation anthrax.

How is Anthrax infection treated?
An infection caused by Anthrax is treated with antibiotics.

Why did the New York City resident get anthrax?
The drum maker in NYC mechanically removed the hair from untanned animal hides using an electric razor in a small and poorly ventilated workspace and without respiratory protection. This process can aerosolize spores present on the hides. Therefore, this appears to be an isolated case of naturally occurring anthrax.



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This information was published on Wednesday 09 August, 2006.