Workplace Medical Mystery: Drum Maker Develops a Suspicious RashPosted on by
He thought it was an insect bite.
Ousmane immigrated to the United States from West Africa when he was just 20. Now living in Washington, DC, he has a thriving business making and repairing traditional West African drums as well as teaching workshops and playing around the city with his performance troupe or with friends in drum circles.
As a young boy living in Guinea, Ousmane learned how to make drums from his father, a skill he hoped to pass on to his son someday. The drums Ousmane makes, djembe drums, are carved from hardwood and the drumhead is made from animal hides that are air-dried until they are brittle enough to crack.
Ousmane typically travelled to New York City to buy goat hides from importers. However, he recently returned from a 3-week trip to Guinea where he attended a relative’s wedding. While abroad, he purchased two hard-dried goat hides and brought them back to the U.S. wrapped in a plastic bag.
After returning from his trip, Ousmane went to work crafting two new drums in his basement workshop. To make the drumheads, he soaked the new hides he purchased in Africa for 1 hour in water, stretched them over the drum body, then scraped and sanded hair from the hides with a razor. It was an unusually hot and muggy June day in Washington, DC so Ousmane wore only a short sleeve shirt and no gloves or eye protection. While sanding the drums, he felt a sting on his left forearm. Thinking nothing of it, he proceeded to finish sanding and then sweep up the hair and dust from the floor before calling it a day. He then went upstairs to wash the dust off his hands and arms.
Two days later, Ousmane noticed an itchy bump on his left forearm. Later, the little bump turned into a bigger blister and the area around the sore became red and swollen. Ousmane decided to go see his doctor in case he had an infection.
Remembering the sting he felt, Ousmane told the doctor he might have been bitten by an insect or cut himself a few days earlier while in his basement. The doctor confirmed Ousmane’s suspicion and said that it was probably a spider bite that had become infected. Ousmane’s doctor prescribed an antibiotic for 7 days to stop the infection.
After taking all his medicine, the sore had still not gone away. In fact, it got bigger and the center of it turned black. Ousmane noticed his lymph nodes were swollen and that he was also running a temperature.
What could be causing Ousmane’s symptoms? Share your ideas in the comments and stay tuned for the next installment on Friday.
Stephanie Stevens, MA, is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Office of the Director.
This blog is part of the NIOSH Workplace Medical Mystery Series. The names and certain personal details of the characters are fictitious and do not represent an actual person or persons.