Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic animals, such as:
- other herbivores
It can also infect humans when exposed to an infected animal, tissue of an infected animal or a bioterrorist weapon.
Anthrax spores can live for years in soil and you can be infected with anthrax by:
- handling infected animal products
- eating undercooked meat from infected animals
- inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products
It is rare to find anthrax diseased animals in the United States.
Anthrax spores can be used as a bioterrorist weapon. This was demonstrated in 2001, when spores were sent via mail and caused 5 deaths as a result.
Anthrax infection disease occurs in three forms:
- cutaneous ~ skin
Inhalation anthrax kickoff symptoms resemble a common cold or flu like symptoms, such as:
Symptoms progress to severe breathing problems, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, tiredness, shock and is highly fatal. A distinguishing characteristic between cold/flu and anthrax is a runny nose.
Gastrointestinal anthrax follows contaminated meat consumption marked by an acute intestinal tract inflammation signs, including:
Death resulting in these cases is 25-60 percent.
Cutaneous anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters an opening in your skin, like through a cut or abrasion. Higher risk of occurrence when handling infected animals:
- hair products ~ especially goat
Almost all of the cases of anthrax are of the cutaneous type, and about one fifth of these untreated cases result in death. However, death is rare if you receive an appropriate antibiotic treatment.
Only those exposed to anthrax should take antibiotics for its treatment. FDA-approved treatment for anthrax in adults and children are Ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and penicillin.
A protective vaccine has been developed for anthrax, but it is currently only recommended for high-risk populations, such as those:
- military personnel deploying to high risk exposure areas
- working in research laboratories that handle anthrax bacteria routinely
- working with imported animal hides/furs from areas with insufficient standards to prevent anthrax spore exposure
- handling potentially infected animal products in high-incidence areas, for example veterinarians who work in other countries
There is no screening test for determining if you’ve been exposed to or carry anthrax. And the antibiotics used to treat post exposure cases are very effective in preventing anthrax disease from occurring again.
Anthrax is not known to spread from person to person.