What You Need To Know About Anthrax

The United States or any other nation could fall victim to a toxic anthrax attack killing millions, however most people throughout the world have no idea what anthrax is and what precautions to take in the event of an outbreak. Following is what you need to know about anthrax.

The United States or any other nation could fall victim to a toxic anthrax attack killing millions, however most people throughout the world have no idea what anthrax is and what precautions to take in the event of an outbreak. Following is what you need to know about anthrax.

1. What the heck is anthrax?

Despite what most people think, Anthrax is an infectious disease. The disease is caused by bacterium Bacillus anthracis, a spore forming bacterium. This bacterium is most often found in mammals including sheep, cattle, goats, antelopes and camels, however the bacterium can also be found within humans, when the humans are exposed to an infected animal or the tissue of an infected animal.

Anthrax Spores

2. Who gets anthrax and is it common?

Due to its occurrence in animals, anthrax is most often found in agricultural areas. When humans contract anthrax, it generally occurs through their occupations and interactions with animals. Additionally, many workers who come into contact with dead animals through their jobs may be become infected with Bacillus anthracis if the animal is infected.

3. How do the bacterium that cause anthrax enter the human body?

The Anthrax bacterium infection occurs in three forms: (1) Inhalation, (2) cutaneous (through the skin), and (3) gastrointestinal. The spores that cause anthrax can remain living in the soil for years. Humans can become infected by the spores by inhaling the spores from contaminated animal products or by handling infected animals. Another way to become infected with anthrax is to eat undercooked meat. IT IS VERY RARE TO FIND INFECTED ANIMALS WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.

4. What are the symptoms of anthrax?

The symptoms of anthrax vary and largely depend on how the disease enters the body. Generally, anthrax symptoms occur with seven days of exposure.

a. If exposure is cutaneous: It is estimated that approximately 95 percent of anthrax cases enter an abrasion or cut on the skin. This ca occur when working with infected hides, wool, leather, or hair products of exposed animals. The symptoms first start as an elevated itchy bump, very similar to an insect bump. The area then quickly changes into a painless ulcer. The ulcer is generally about one to three centimeters in diameter. Frequently, lymph nodes in the surrounding area swell. Overall, 20% of individuals contracting anthrax in this fashion die.

b. If exposure is from inhalation: The first symptoms from this transmission may closely be related to the common cold, however severe breathing problems and shock will soon follow. Inhalation anthrax is most often fatal.

c. If exposure is intestinal: This generally occurs when consuming contaminated meat. The symptoms begin with a quick and severe inflammation of the intestinal tract. Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain soon hit the victim. Next severe diarrhea and vomiting blood ravage the body. 25-60% of these cases are fatal.

5. Where throughout the world is Anthrax found?

Anthrax is found in most continents, however it is much more common in developing nations or nations that lack veterinary public health programs. Places such as Central and South America, Eastern and Southern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean frequently report more anthrax cases in animals than elsewhere in the world.
Anthrax is global. It is more common in developing countries or countries

6. Can anthrax be transmitted from person to person?

Person to person spread of anthrax through direct content is highly unlikely and anthrax is not contagious.

7. What is the treatment regiment for anthrax?

Antibiotics can be effectively prescribed, however to be effective treatment must begin quickly, because when left untreated, anthrax can be fatal.

8. How can anthrax infections be prevented?

In the most common countries where anthrax is found, and treatment of anthrax is low, humans should avoid direct contact with livestock and many animal products and not eat meat that has potentially been under cooked.

Additionally, an anthrax vaccine is available for use in humans. The vaccine has been found to be 93 percent effective.

9. More information about the anthrax vaccine?

The vaccine is distributed and manufactured by BioPort Corp of Lansing, Michigan. The vaccine is a cell free filtrate, therefore it is not composed of dead or live bacteria throughout the preparation. Anthrax vaccines developed for animals should never be used in humans.

10. Who should get vaccinated for anthrax?

The advisory committee of the CDCP has stated the following people should be vaccinated:

-- People who work closely with the organism that cause anthrax in the laboratory

-- People who work directly with imported animal furs or hides in areas where standards are subpar to prevent exposure to anthrax spores.

-- People who handle potentially infected animal products in high-incidence areas. (Incidence is very low within the United States, but veterinarians who travel to work in other countries where incidence is higher should consider getting vaccinated.)

-- Military personnel deployed to areas with high risk for exposure to the organism (as when it is used as a biological warfare weapon).

Pregnant women should be vaccinated only if absolutely necessary.

The anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program in the U.S. Army Surgeon General's Office can be reached at 1-877-GETVACC (1-877-438-8222). http://www.anthrax.osd.mil


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