Learn More About Anthrax
Medikoe Wellness Expert
80 feet road indira nagar, Bengaluru Feb 14, 2017
Anthrax is an infectious condition caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is most common in the agricultural regions of sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, southern and eastern Europe, central and southwestern Asia, and the Caribbean. Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world.
A life-threatening disease that usually affects animals, it is caused by Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax bacteria affects goats, cows, sheep, and horses but can also spread to humans if they come in contact with an infected animal. It is a rare but severe illness caused by a spore-forming bacterium.
The reason for real concern is, however, the new understanding that this disease can be used in biological warfare. Bioterrorism or biological attack is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock, or crops.
Anthrax meaning the Bacillus anthracis is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack. Bacillus anthracis ( b. Anthracis ) gained its notoriety as a biological weapon in 2001 in the U.S. when anthrax powder was mailed through packages, leading to 22 cases of infection, including five fatalities.
Causes and symptoms of Anthrax?
These large, rod-like bacteria exist in their dormant form called spores in the soil. They contain three toxic proteins called protective antigen, lethal factor and edema factor, which they secrete. The spores can remain inactive for years until they find their way into a potential host. Common hosts for anthrax include wild or domestic animals, such as sheep, cows, horses, cattle, and goats.
The anthrax symptoms depend on the type of infection and can take anywhere from 1 day to more than two months to appear. All types have the potential, if untreated, to spread throughout the body and cause severe illness and even death.
Commonly, the infection spreads through the skin, which causes a dark and ugly sore or lesion — the main reason behind this being lack of healthcare regulations and exposure to infected carcasses.
Types of Anthrax
Anthrax is a deadly disease and all the four types of anthrax can eventually spread all over your body and affect greatly that it may even end up taking your life.
1. Cutaneous anthrax
A reddish-brown raised spot that begins to enlarge causing redness and blistering around it. The centre of the spot has a crater which drains a bloodstained liquid.
Symptoms include swollen glands, muscle pain, vomiting, fever, and headaches. It resolves in about two months if the right antibiotics are provided, else can be deadly.
2. Inhalation anthrax
Probably one of the most lethal forms of anthrax, it occurs when the person inhales the spores. The spores that survive from the lungs get transported to the chest. Here the spores multiply and secrete the deadly toxins leading to death eventually as the antibiotics can only kill the spores but cannot eliminate the harmful toxins secreted.
Symptoms begin with a sore throat and develop into chest pain and respiratory difficulties as the illness worsens. In the final stages, severe bleeding and tissue death occur as the disease spread through the body.
3. Gastrointestinal anthrax or bowel anthrax
A rare form, this one is caused by eating infected, undercooked meat. It causes diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal pain. It spreads through the bloodstream and is deadly as it is highly toxic.
4. Injection Anthrax
Recently, another type of infection has been identified in heroin-injecting drug users. Symptoms may sometimes be similar to those of cutaneous anthrax, but there may also be an infection deep under the skin or in the muscle where the drug got injected. Anthrax virus can spread throughout the body faster and be harder to recognize and treat.
Diagnosis of Anthrax
To diagnose Anthrax a number of tests are run on the patient.
A sample of fluid from the suspicious lesion on your skin or a small tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken out and tested in the lab for signs of cutaneous anthrax.
You may also have to undergo a blood test to determine the presence of anthrax bacteria.
A doctor can suggest a CT scan or chest X-ray diagnose if you have inhalation anthrax
If you are suspected of gastrointestinal anthrax, your stool sample may be checked and tested on.
A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) may also be done by a doctor to confirm diagnoses of anthrax meningitis.
Anthrax Treatment and Precautions
Antibiotics are known to have cured most of the infections caused by anthrax as it kills the bacteria or stops their growth. However, inhaled anthrax is very difficult to treat and can prove to be fatal.
Antibiotics can be taken to prevent anthrax from developing in people who have already been exposed to it but have not developed any symptoms yet. Doxycycline and ciprofloxacin are two of the antibiotics that could be used to prevent anthrax. Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) has the ability to provide protection from anthrax. It is not usually available to the general public.
When used as a preventive measure, it is a five-dose vaccine series given over 18 months. When used after you have been exposed to anthrax, it’s given as a three-dose vaccine series. It is only given to the people who work in situations that put them at high risk of contact with anthrax, such as military personnel and scientists.
If a person is suspected of having died due to anthrax, major precautions should be taken to prevent skin contact with the potentially contaminated body and fluids excreated through the natural body openings. Visitors to countries where anthrax is common can also get sick with anthrax if they have contact with infected animal carcasses, or eat meat from animals that were sick when slaughtered.
Some other tips for avoiding anthrax include:
Eating only the meat which has been carefully slaughtered and properly cooked
Avoiding frequent contact with raw animal shelters, especially those of cows, goats and sheep.
If a person shows signs and symptoms after exposure to animals or animal products from parts of the world where anthrax is common; however, it is best to contact a health care provider.
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