Anthrax – Causes and Symptoms of Anthrax

Anthrax is a fatal disease caused by the bacterium bacillus anthracis. In humans it occurs very rarely unless it is spread internationally and it usually develops in cattle, sheep, horses and goats. Humans get infected through indirect or direct contact with the affected animals. The anthrax lesions may be contagious and you can get infected by eating the contaminated meat. Inhaled anthrax can be fatal and is difficult to treat. In United States of America, 22 cases were detected in the year 2001 as a result of bio-terrorism. When these cases were studied most of them were media employees and postal workers who got exposed to anthrax when handling mail.

What causes Anthrax?

  • Anthrax is mainly caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis.
  • Anthrax is developed by direct exposure to spores through skin, by inhaling airborne spores from the environment or eating contaminated food.
  • An open lesion can spread anthrax from person to person.
  • Cutaneous anthrax is caused when direct contact with the spores through a cut on the hands, face or fingers.
  • Oropharyngeal and gastrointestinal is caused by eating the meat that is contaminated.
  • Inhalation anthrax is caused when a person inhales the anthrax spores.
  • In United States, some people were infected while making the traditional African drums from the skins of infected animals.

What are the symptoms of Anthrax?

The incubation period for anthrax is upto 7 days but for the symptoms to develop it can take 60 days or more. Symptoms occur depending on how the infection was acquired. They include:

Cutaneous anthrax

It occurs when the spores are exposed to an open cut or scrape.The symptoms include:

  • Skin infection starts as a tiny raised bump
  • Itching
  • The bump develops to a blister within 1 or 2 days
  • The blister has a black center and the surrounding is reddened and swollen
  • Many blisters slowly develop
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Feeling of discomfort
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Gastrointestinal anthrax

This occurs as a result of eating undercooked meat of an infected animal. The symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Swollen neck
  • Sore throat

Inhalation anthrax

This develops when you inhale in the anthrax spores. It is the most deadliest and if treated also it is fatal. The signs and symptom of inhalation anthrax includes:

  • Difficulty in brerathing.
  • Mild chest discomfort
  • Symptoms of flu like sore throat, fatigue and pain in the muscles
  • High fever
  • Shock
  • Meningitis

When to seek medical advise?

If you work in an environment where anthrax can occur, meet your doctor immediately for evaluation and care. Though it occurs very rarely, if you develop these signs and symptoms after getting exposed to the bacteria in those parts of the world where anthrax is common seek the doctors advise immediately.

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