Anthrax- Understanding Causes, Symptoms and Facts About This Lethal Bacterial Disease
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Anthrax- Understanding Causes, Symptoms and Facts About This Lethal Bacterial Disease

Anthrax symptoms, causes and facts. Learn how to identify this lethal bacterial disease.

Anthrax technically, is an acute disease that is caused by spores produced by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and most forms of the disease are considered lethal. What makes Anthrax such a deadly disease is its ability to survive most harsh conditions that would often destroy other toxins, disease and bacteria. The spores that the bacteria creates can lie dormant for decades, even centuries and can be found on every continent including Antarctica.

The disease does not spread from directly from person to person, or animal to animal. Instead, the spores are spread either through inhalation, ingestion or when they come in contact with an open wound or blood of a host. Once the spores infect a host, they reactivate and multiply quickly. Anthrax can infect herbivores that ingest the spores while grazing and gets passed on to carnivores that eat their diseased flesh, whether the animal is alive or dead. Although, carnivores and scavengers are much less likely to develop Anthrax than the animals they eat, and domestic animals are even less likely affected. Farm animals and livestock are affected more commonly.

The spores can also be transported on shoes, clothing and other objects, as well as through In vitro concoctions that have been used in biological warfare and weapons. Many people associate Anthrax as a weapon of terrorism. In 2001 in the United States, the Ames strain of Anthrax was used as an Anthrax terrorist attack, which was a gentler strain than Vollum strain that was used in Word War II.

Although an act of terrorism is a concern, most human contract Anthrax through ingesting contaminated meats or occupational hazards such as handling animal products containing the spores such as wool, meat and skin. For example, those who work at meat processing plants, farmers who raise open range livestock, and those who handle animal hides are more at risk although the last known natural inhalation fatality in the United States due to Anthrax was in 1976 in California with a woman who worked with wool while weaving infected fibers. Developing countries are more likely to have a higher percentage of deaths related to Anthrax due to poor standards and lack of accessibility to sanitary conditions or veterinary care.

There are three main categories of infection:

  • Pulmonary
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Cutaneous

Symptoms related to these categories are:

Pulmonary- Respiratory infections in humans result in flu-like symptoms that become severe quickly, which often leads to respiratory collapse that becomes fatal. This mode of Anthrax is used in bioterrorism most often because of the high percentage of death rate at 92% if it is not aggressively treated immediately.

Gastrointestinal- Gastrointestinal infections often occur by ingesting infected meats which causes severe difficulties such as vomiting blood, diarrhea, acute inflammation in the intestinal tract and loss of appetite. From there, as the Anthrax enters the bloodstream from the bowels, the infection increases dramatically and spreads to other parts of the body.

Cutaneous- Infections through the skin shows up as boil-like lesions that form an ulcer or blister with a black center that spreads to other areas of the skin. This is the least fatal form of infection because the bacteria is limited to the skin for longer periods of time than through internal organs.

Vaccines and Antibiotics are available for Anthrax although extreme measures for recovery and prevention are needed when infections are discovered. More information on solutions and treatment are available through the CDC which is also known as the Center for Disease Control.

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