Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by Bacillus Anthracis, a bacteria that forms spores that can survive for a very long time even in harsh environmental conditions. These spores infect animals and humans through ingestion, inhalation and skin contact, if there is a break in the skin. It is not a viral infection since it is caused by bacteria and not viruses.
Anthrax usually infects mammals that are herbivorous because of their exposure to the environment. Animals and people who eat the meat of these herbivore can also be infected through ingestion and through skin contact in the process of preparing the animals for butchering and cooking.
With this basic information, humans that are most likely to contract the disease are those who work in livestock facilities, those in the raw end of the clothing industry such as wool sorters. Those who handle animals for its skin, horn and meat are the first candidates for the disease. It is also possible for people who work in vegetation areas that has been grazed on by infected herbivores to be infected with anthrax.
Symptoms of the disease when the person ingests the spores are: vomiting of blood, loss of appetite, diarrhea and an inflammation of the intestinal tract. The mouth and throat can develop lesions.
When a person inhales the spores, symptoms include mild fever, flu-like symptoms, aching muscles, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath and malaise.
Skin contact with the spores will result to these symptoms: itchiness like that of an insect bite that develops into a bump, then turns into an ulcer within 2 days, and is colored black. Its diameter reaches about 1-3 cm. It is painless at this point, but it should be checked by a doctor immediately because if left untreated, it will lead to death.
Other symptoms of anthrax poisoning which are common regardless of the way a person is infected, include fever, chills, fatigue, sore throat, headache, nausea and enlarged lymph nodes. The symptoms mentioned usually occur within 7 days from the point of infection.
Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics, and some therapy, depending on the level of infection. There is a vaccine for anthrax produced by BioPort, although not everyone is advised to have it since candidates for such bacterial infection is identifiable. Vaccination is only advisable for those whose occupations involve animal handling.
It is important to send a person believed to be infected with anthrax to the hospital immediately. The infected person is not contagious, but he might be wearing some pieces of clothing that have some spores on it that can infect other people. It is important to disinfect all the items touched by the infected person to make sure the disease will not spread. The infected person and the people around him can be disinfected by washing with antimicrobial soap and water, and the waste water after washing should also be treated with anti microbial agents. Clothing and other items can be decontaminated by boiling in water for more than 30 minutes. Formaldehyde can be used to wipe off surfaces that may be infected.
Anthrax has recently been a safety issue because of its potential for bioterrorism. An outbreak will surely cause panic, and will endanger a lot of lives. Because of this, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a notice to the public to report cases not just to the health bureau, but to the local, state and federal officers as well.