Anthrax – What it is, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments of this condition. In addition, anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by a microbe called Bacillus anthracis that lives in the soil. Anthrax became better known in 2001 when anthrax was used as a bioweapon and shipped in the US mail. The attack resulted in five deaths and 17 illnesses in the United States, making it one of the worst biological attacks in the country’s history.
However, anthrax is uncommon in the United States. It is often found in some agricultural areas of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and Southwest Asia.
Causes: The disease is more common in farm animals than in people. You can get Anthrax by indirect contact or direct by inhaling, touching, or ingesting the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. You can come in contact with anthrax through animals or biological weapons.
Animals: You can get Carbunk by touching farm animals or game animals infected with Anthrax . You can also get infected by inhaling. Also, you can get clover by eating undercooked meat from animals infected with anthrax .
Biological Weapon: Anthrax can be used as a biological weapon. However, this is very rare. There has not been an anthrax attack in the United States since the 2001 attack.
Risk Factors: You are at an increased risk of getting anthrax if you:
- Work with anthrax in a lab
- Works with cattle as a veterinarian (not likely in the US)
- Handling animal skins in areas with high anthrax risk (not in the United States)
- Dealing with game animals
- Military personnel are on duty in an area that poses a high risk of exposure to anthrax
Symptoms: Symptoms of anthrax exposure depend on the mode of contact. Symptoms include:
Skin contact (skin): Cutaneous anthrax is anthrax contracted through skin contact. If your skin comes into contact with anthrax , you may get a small, itchy , overgrown sore . It usually looks like an insect bite.
The injured quickly develops into a blister. Then it becomes a skin ulcer with a black center. This usually does not cause pain. Symptoms usually develop within one to five days after exposure.
Ingestion: Symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax usually develop within a week of exposure. Symptoms of ingesting anthrax include:
- loss of appetite
- neck swelling
- bloody diarrhea
- severe abdominal pain
Inhalation: People who inhale anthrax usually develop symptoms within a week. But symptoms can develop as quickly as two days after exposure and up to 45 days after exposure. Symptoms of inhaling anthrax include:
Diagnostics: Tests to diagnose include:
- blood tests
- skin tests
- stool samples
- A spinal twist, which is a procedure that tests a small amount of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
- chest x-rays
- a CT scan
- Endoscopy, which is a test that uses a small tube with a camera attached to look at the esophagus or intestines
If your doctor detects anthrax in your body, the test results will be sent to a department of public health laboratory for confirmation.
Treatments: Treatment depends on whether you have developed symptoms or not. If you are exposed to anthrax but have no symptoms, your doctor will start preventive treatment. Preventive treatment consists of antibiotics and the anthrax vaccine .
If you have been exposed to anthrax and have symptoms, your doctor will treat you with antibiotics for 60 days.
Prevention: You can reduce your risk of anthrax with the anthrax vaccine .
The only vaccine that is FDA approved is the BioThrax vaccine. It is available to the general public. The anthrax vaccine is given to people who work in situations that put them at high risk of contact with anthrax , such as military personnel and scientists.
The government has a stockpile of anthrax vaccine in case of a biological attack or other type of mass exposure. The anthrax vaccine is 91% effective in humans after two shots.