What is anthrax?
Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by
bacteria. There are 3 forms of anthrax: cutaneous
(the most common form), intestinal (the least
common form), and inhalation (the most deadly
form). Anthrax most commonly occurs in hoofed
mammals, but can also infect humans.
Who can get anthrax?
Exposure to anthrax can occur through wool
processing, hide processing, handling infected
animals, or inhaling anthrax spores from
contaminated bone meal used in home gardening.
Exposure can also occur through a bio-terrorist
What are the symptoms of anthrax?
Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the
disease was contracted, but usually occur within
seven days of exposure.
Inhalation (lung): Initial symptoms of
infection may resemble a cold or flu. After
several days, the symptoms may progress to severe
breathing problems and shock. Inhalation
anthrax is often fatal.
Intestinal: Initial signs may include nausea,
loss of appetite, vomiting and fever, followed by
severe abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and
Cutaneous (skin): The first sign is a pimple
that could contain fluid, progressing to a
depressed black ulcer. The area is red, swollen,
and often painless.
How is anthrax spread?
Inhalation anthrax results from inhaling spores
of the anthrax bacteria. The anthrax bacteria can
be found in industrial processes such as tanning
hides and processing wool or bone.
Intestinal anthrax comes from ingesting
contaminated undercooked meat. There is no
evidence that milk from infected animals transmits
Cutaneous (skin) anthrax is caused by contact
with tissues of animals dying of the disease; or
by contact with hair, wool, hides, or products
made from them. Contact with soil associated with
infected animals or contaminated bone meal used in
gardening is also a source of infection.
Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is
extremely unlikely, if it occurs at all.
Therefore, there is no need to treat contacts of
people ill with anthrax, such as household contacts, friends, or coworkers, unless they
also were exposed to the same source of infection.
What is the treatment for anthrax?
In people exposed to anthrax, infection can be
prevented with antibiotic treatment. Early
antibiotic treatment of anthrax is important.
Waiting to be treated lessens your chances of
How can anthrax be prevented?
An anthrax vaccine can prevent infection and is
used by the military. However it is not available
for the general public at this time.
How do I get more information on anthrax?
Other Category A disease agents