Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivorous mammals, although other mammals and some birds have been known to contract it. Anthrax is a rare but serious illness caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. it was a major cause of fatal disease in cattle, sheep, goats, camels, horses and pigs throughout the world. There’s no evidence that anthrax is transmitted from person to person, but it’s possible that anthrax skin lesions may be contagious through direct contact. Usually, anthrax bacteria enter the body through a wound in the skin. You can also become infected by eating contaminated meat or inhaling the spores.
Anthrax became widely known in 2001 when it was used as a biological weapon. Humans generally acquire the disease directly or indirectly from infected animals, or occupational exposure to infected or contaminated animal products especially where livestock vaccination programmes are inadequate or have been disrupted. When the spores get inside the body, it breaks open the shell and becomes potentially active. It releases the spores from the shell through the bloodstream which in turn causes various health problems.
Anthrax is mostly spread due to breathing contaminated air or air containing the anthrax spores, eating contaminated food or directly on coming in contact with the spores via cuts or broken skin or getting injected by heroin. Signs and symptoms, which depend on how you’re infected, can range from skin sores to vomiting to shock. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can cure most anthrax infections.
Types of Anthrax and Their Symptoms:
There are four types of anthrax:
1 .Cutaneous Anthrax:
The person usually gets infected when the spore enters the body through a cut or skin abrasion. it’s by far the most common route the disease takes. It’s also the mildest — with appropriate treatment, cutaneous anthrax is seldom fatal. It’s also the mildest — with appropriate treatment, cutaneous anthrax is seldom fatal. The symptoms start to show with a week after exposure. They become worse as weeks go by and immediate treatment should be administered.
- It’s also the mildest — with appropriate treatment, cutaneous anthrax is seldom fatal.
- Itchy bump and swelling
- If your skin comes into contact with anthrax, you may get a small, raised sore that’s itchy. It usually looks like an insect bite
- The sore quickly develops into a blister. It then becomes a skin ulcer with a black center.
2. Pulmonary Anthrax
This form of anthrax occurs when a person breathes in air contaminated by the spores. It’s the most deadly way to contract the disease, and even with treatment, it is often fatal. It causes signs such as those of pneumonia when the anthrax spores are inhaled by macrophages cells of the lungs.
- Flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, mild fever, fatigue and muscle aches, which may last a few hours or days
- Cold Symptoms
- Mild chest discomfort
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Achy muscles
- Coughing up blood
- Painful swallowing
- High fever
- Trouble breathing
3. Injection Anthrax
This is the most recently identified route of anthrax infection. This form often occurs on getting injected or injecting with harmful illegal drugs like heroin.
- Redness at the site of injection
- Multiple organ failure
4. Gastrointestinal Anthrax:
This form of anthrax happens on eating undercooked meat of an animal infected with anthrax or any other food which is already contaminated by the anthrax spores.The symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax usually develop within a week of exposure. The bacteria find its way to the intestines through the wall of the bowel and slowly to the bloodstream.
- Swelling in the neck
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Severe, bloody diarrhea in the later stages of the disease
- Sore throat and difficulty swallowing
Causes of Anthrax:
Anthrax spores are formed by anthrax bacteria that occur naturally in soil in most parts of the world. The spores can remain dormant for years until they find their way into a host. Common hosts for anthrax include wild or domestic livestock, such as sheep, cattle, horses and goats. You can get anthrax through indirect or direct contact by touching, inhaling, or ingesting anthrax spores. Once anthrax spores get inside your body and activate the bacteria multiply, spread, and produce toxins. Exposure to infected domestic or wild grazing animals, exposure to infected animal products, such as wool or hides, consumption of undercooked meat from infected animals, Anthrax can be used as a biological weapon, but this is very rare.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
If you’re exposed to anthrax but you have no symptoms, your doctor will begin preventive treatment. Preventive treatment consists of antibiotics and the anthrax vaccine.
As the usual signs and symptoms are common like that of severe flu, it is difficult to acknowledge in the initial stages. If you’ve been exposed to anthrax and have symptoms, your doctor will treat you with antibiotics for 60 to 100 days.The doctor may ask about the past medical history and undergo a thorough medical check-up including some tests
- Skin testing
- Blood test
- Sputum and throat swab testing
- Chest X-Ray or Computerized Tomography (CT)
- Spinal tap (i.e. lumbar puncture)
- Stool testing
- An anthrax vaccine for humans is available. The vaccine doesn’t contain live bacteria and can’t lead to infection.
- The only anthrax vaccine that’s approved by the FDA is the BTS
- Avoid contact with livestock and animal skins as much as possible. Also avoid eating meat that hasn’t been properly cooked.
- When used as a preventive measure, it’s a five-dose vaccine series given over an 18-month period.
The CDC Trusted Source suggests that anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack. The most serious complication of anthrax is inflammation of the membranes and fluid covering the brain and spinal cord, leading to massive bleeding (hemorrhagic meningitis) and death. Anthrax illness is more common in farm animals than people. Humans have an increased risk of getting anthrax. The chance of death for cutaneous anthrax is 20 percent if it’s left untreated.