- First Aid Essentials Slideshow
- Take the Trauma and First Aid Quiz
- First Aid Sprains & Strains Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Anthrax - Prevention
- Anthrax facts
- What is anthrax? Is anthrax contagious?
- What causes anthrax?
- How is anthrax contracted?
- How common is anthrax? What are risk factors for anthrax infection?
- How long is the incubation period with anthrax?
- What kinds of diseases does anthrax cause? What are the signs and symptoms of anthrax infections?
- What specialists treat anthrax?
- How is the diagnosis made of anthrax?
- What is the treatment for anthrax?
- Is it possible to prevent anthrax? Is there an anthrax vaccine?
- What is the prognosis for anthrax infections?
How is anthrax contracted?
Anthrax can infect humans in three ways. The most common is infection through the skin, which causes an ugly, dark sore. Humans and animals can ingest anthrax from carcasses of dead animals that have been contaminated with anthrax. Ingestion of anthrax can cause serious, sometimes fatal disease. The most deadly form is inhalation anthrax. If the spores of anthrax are inhaled, they migrate to lymph glands in the chest where they proliferate, spread, and produce toxins that often cause death.
How common is anthrax? What are risk factors for anthrax infection?
Anthrax is now rare in humans in the United States and developed countries. It still occurs today, largely in countries lacking public-health regulations that prevent exposure to infected goats, cattle, sheep, and horses and their products. In the last few years, there have been rare cases of anthrax in people exposed to imported animal hides used to make drums. Drum players, drum makers, and their family members have been infected in this way. The major concern for those of us in western countries (who don't play drums) is the use of anthrax as an agent of biological warfare. Individuals who are at higher risk to become infected with anthrax include
- livestock producers and farmers,
- travelers to areas where anthrax is endemic,
- handlers of animal products (for example, animal hides),
- laboratory personnel that study anthrax, and
- mail handlers, military personnel, and individuals trained to respond to bioterrorists and/or biological warfare.
How long is the incubation period with anthrax?
The incubation period (the period between contact with anthrax and the start of symptoms) may be relatively short, from one to five days. Like other infectious diseases, the incubation period for anthrax is quite variable and it may be weeks before an infected individual feels sick.