The definition of Anthrax
Anthrax is an infectious disease that is caused by spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus Anthracis. It occurs mainly in warm-blooded animals, but can also infect humans.
Anthrax within humans is very rare in the U.S. Anyone can come about anthrax if they become exposed to a contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products of infected animals, or, if they eat undercooked meat from infected animals. People who are exposed to dead animals and animal products from countries where anthrax is more common are at the highest risk.
It can be found globally in common countries such as South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Animals found with anthrax rarely occur in the U.S. with the most reports of animal infection coming from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
The anthrax infection can come in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. B. anthracis can stay in the soil for many years and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling animal products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Anthrax can be spread by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is unlikely.
Cutaneous (skin): Most anthrax infections occur when the bacteria enters a cut or abrasion on the skin. The skin starts as an itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but in 1-2 days, develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer. Usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black dying area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
Inhalation: Start resembles may seem like a cold. After a few days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhaling anthrax usually results in death in 1-2 days after onset of the acute symptoms.
Intestinal: This disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Start signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and/or fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases.