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    All About the Disease Anthrax

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    Anthrax is a deadly infectious disease that is rare and caused by gram-positive rod-shaped bacteria spores. It belongs to the species called bacillus anthracis It is also known as a zoonotic infection and can be found in cattle, sheep, goats, and deer as well as soil. It is spread through 3 modes of transmission; inhalation, ingestion, or cutaneous. There is also injectable anthrax which is very rare but can be transmitted from heroin use. When the spores enter your body they “activate”, multiple and produce toxins that can lead to serious illness or death.

    The onset of symptoms can be anywhere from 1 day to over 2 months. If the disease is left untreated with antibiotics it can lead to death. There is quite the list of symptoms which include small blisters, swelling around the blisters. painless sores with a black center swelling of neck glands, fever, SOB, Chest discomfort, Nausea, Sweating, Fatigue, Stomach pain, Diarrhea, and vomiting. The symptoms you may show depend on the route of transmission. Inhalation is the most severe and life-threatening mode, the spores travel to the alveoli and create toxins in the lymph system. This can lead to potential death in a matter of hours or days.

    Complications from anthrax can include your body going septic since your immune system may not fight off the bacteria or your body develops meningitis of the brain. There is really no way to prevent yourself from catching anthrax. If you are exposed to anthrax the only prevention of it manifesting into a life threatening situation is antibiotics over a course of several weeks.

    The vaccine is not generally recommended for the general public unless you work/live in an area where you would have potential exposure. Members of the military are given the vaccine and boosters of the vaccine months afterward.. There are side effects such as swelling, anaphylactic reaction, and memory loss associated with the vaccine as there is almost always with vaccines. The USA military views anthrax as a biological weapon of warfare.

    There are two ways to confirm anthrax exposure, one is to measure antibodies or toxins in the blood. The second way is to directly test the bacillus anthracis by a blood sample, spinal fluid, skin lesion swab, or a sputum sample. The treatment for anthrax includes heavy-duty antibiotics over a course of several weeks. For centuries anthrax has been known to lie latent in livestock and soil for decades without ever dying, just waiting for its next host to invade. The current health of the community is affected since anthrax occurs naturally and is also a threat to countries that rely on agricultural business since the bacteria can live in soil.

    The name anthrax derived from a Greek term “anthrakis” in the early 1400s BC, this means coal-like black lesions which are formed on the skin when the bacteria is contracted. It was only found in livestock by the Greeks, Israelites, and Romans. In the 1800s it was given the nickname “woolsorters disease” due to people sorting wool from an infected sheep and becoming infected with the bacteria. These were some of the very first instances of humans contracting the bacteria and becoming ill. Since it is inhumane to test bacteria samples of anthrax on a human, animals had been chosen instead for testing trials.

    This coincided with data collection of what physical ailments the spores manifested on someone who had contracted the bacteria as well.

    During the civil war in 1979-1980s, the world’s largest outbreak of anthrax occurred in zimbabwe. There were 9400 reported cases of Anthrax was first reported in cattle only in Zimbabwe but due to the lack of food during the civil war, infected animal parts to eat were handed out, resulting in the spread of the bacteria in humans.

    A bizarre feature of Anthrax in dead infected animals is that the blood does not clot and bleeds easily out through orifices instead. This results in the contamination of soil and water surrounding the dead infected animal. The pH of the soil can make it viable for the bacteria to thrive in. The bacteria can also live in animal by-products such as wool or leather for up to a year. Although it is uncommon to contract anthrax, it is still a bacteria that the public is very fearful of.

    In September of 2001, a few weeks after the attacks on the trade center towers in NYC, someone sent envelopes filled with anthrax to people of power and civilians. That person injured 17 people and killed 5 including 2 state senators in NYC and washington. These events were considered a terrorist attack and although a suspect was never officially caught, evidence had pointed to a scientist that worked for the CDC and had been involved with the engineering of the anthrax vaccine. That man later committed suicide before ever officially being named the suspect in the attacks. Upon researching the internet about anthrax, the majority of articles were linked to the attacks in the USA in 2001. Maybe one day the vaccine will be available to all humans to protect us from potential exposure. If that was available, would you receive it?


    • Bower, W. A., Schiffer, J., Atmar, R. L., Keitel, W. A., Friedlander, A. M., Liu, L., Yu, Y., Stephens, D. S., Quinn, C. P., & Hendricks, K. (2019). Use of anthrax vaccine in the United
    • States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2019. MMWR. Recommendations and Reports, 68(4), 1-14.
    • Chambers J, Yarrarapu SNS, Mathai JK. Anthrax Infection. [Updated 2020 Aug 25] StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-
    • Goel, A. K. (2015). Anthrax: A disease of biowarfare and public health importance. World Journal of Clinical Cases, 3(1), 20.
    • Keim, P., Pearson, T., & Okinaka, R. T. (2014). Evolution of bacillus anthracis, causative agent of anthrax. Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens, 523-533.
    • Kutmanova, A., Doganay, M., & Zholdoshev, S. (2020). Human anthrax in Kyrgyz Republic: Epidemiology and clinical features. Journal of Infection and Public Health, 13(8), 1161-1165.
    • VanMeter, K. C., & Hubert, R. J. (2015). Microbiology for the healthcare professional. Elsevier Health Sciences.

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