Don't Be Alarmed - Know The Facts About ANTHRAX

What is anthrax?

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. That can infect all warm-blooded animals, (cattle, sheep goats, camels) including man.

How common is Anthrax and who gets it?

Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions where it occurs in animals. When anthrax affects humans, it is usually due to an occupational exposure to infected animals or their products. Anthrax in wild livestock has occurred in the U.S.

How is Anthrax transmitted and what are the symptoms?

Anthrax infection can occur in three forms:

  1. Cutaneous (skin)-Most (about 95%) anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin. Skin infections begin as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite, but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.
  2. Inhalation - (Woolsorters' disease) This type is a biphasic illness. About 1-6 days after inhaling Bacillus anthracis spores there would be a gradual onset of vague flu-like symptoms of illness such as fatigue, fever, mild discomfort in the chest and possibly a dry cough. The symptoms would improve for a few hours or 2-3 days. The second phase develops suddenly with the development of sudden onset of difficulty in breathing, profuse sweating, cyanosis, ( blue colored skin), shock and death in 24-36 hours.
  3. Gastrointestinal - Infections of the intestinal tract can occur by eating undercooked meat from diseased animals. Initial symptoms of intestinal tract infection are nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood and severe diarrhea.


Does past infection with anthrax make a person immune?

A second attack with this disease can occur but is unlikely.

Can anthrax be spread from person-to-person?

Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely to occur.

How is anthrax diagnosed?

Anthrax is diagnosed by isolating the bacteria from the blood, skin lesions, or respiratory secretions or by measuring specific antibodies in the blood of persons with suspected cases.

What is the treatment for anthrax?

Doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics. Recently, Cipro (ciprofloxacin) has become famous as the treatment for anthrax. However, there are a number of antibiotics that can be used such as Penicillin, Tetracycline, Erythromycin, and Chloramphenicol. To be effective, treatment should be initiated early. If left untreated the disease can be fatal.

What is the anthrax vaccine?

A licensed vaccine for anthrax does exist, but is not widely available. Currently, mass vaccination is not available to the public, but is reserved for persons in high risk groups, as recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices(ACIP). This would include those who work directly with the organism in the laboratory, persons who work with imported animal hides or furs, and military personnel deployed to areas with high risk for exposure to the organism (as when it is used as a biological warfare weapon).