Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by spores of Bacillus anthracis. It is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. Exposure to a small amount of anthrax is considered not enough to cause the disease. Here is what experts say about anthrax and what to do if you should come into contact with it.
FORMS OF ANTHRAX
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: 1) Cutaneous or skin anthrax is contracted by direct contact through scrapes or cuts and you would exhibit symptoms; such as: low fever, lesions and swelling. This type of anthrax is easily detected and only fatal in 20% of the cases that go untreated. 2) Gastrointestinal anthrax is contracted by eating meat from infected animals and you would exhibit symptoms; such as: vomiting of blood, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. This type of anthrax is very rare in the USA and is 25-60% fatal. 3) Inhaled anthrax is considered the most likely form for use in bioterrorism and is the most deadly. Experts estimate that you must inhale 8,000 - 10,000 spores to contract this form where the bacteria multiply and attack the lungs. With inhaled anthrax you would exhibit flu like symptoms; such as: fever, malaise, fatigue, and a dry cough. You would then go through a period of improvement that's followed by a decline (i.e. trouble breathing, sweating, bluish discoloration of the skin) eventually leading to shock and death 24 - 36 hours after the severe symptoms begin. This form of anthrax is fatal in 80-90% of the cases unless treated early.
An anthrax vaccine was licensed in 1970 to BioPort Corp. of Lansing, Michigan and is cell-free, which means it contains no dead or live bacteria in the preparation. Currently reserved for military use only, supplies are limited because of delays in getting FDA approval for a new production facility in Lansing, Michigan. Antibiotics are helpful, but only in the early stages of infection because they fight bacteria, not the toxins the bacteria produce. The drug Cipro is the only drug the FDA has approved for treatment for inhalation anthrax. Cipro, or ciprofloxacin HCL, is an oral antibiotic and is manufactured by Bayer under patent protection for at least another year. Caution: Cipro should not be taken for anthrax unless needed. A healthy person taking the drug can build up an immunity and prevent it from working when it is needed.
WHAT IF CONTACT IS MADE?
Since anthrax is not naturally occurring, it is safe in today's world to assume contact with this bacteria is intentional and therefore an act of BIOTERRORISM. If you come into contact or suspect contact with anthrax, you should treat the area as a CRIME SCENE and the following procedures are recommended:
Immediately leave the area.
Isolate others from area.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Call 911 and alert the police.
It appears that the biggest bioterrorism threat is from anthrax being spread in the air by sprayers being that there is no indication of exposure (i.e. no cloud or color, no smell and no taste). Anthrax skin infections are rarely fatal, but inhaled anthrax usually is without early treatment. As of October 18, 2001 there has been 1 death and about 40 people around the USA have tested positive for anthrax exposure, but do not have the disease. It is worth repeating that anthrax is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person.
For information regarding the anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program in the U.S. Army Surgeon General's Office, call 1-877-438-8222 or visit their web site at: www.anthrax.osd.mil
USA Today Newspaper. Thursday, October 18, 2001. Section 8D. How, where, why of anthrax?.
Rochester D&C Newspaper. Thursday, October 18, 2001. ?Anthrax anxiety continues?.
CNN.com/HEALTH website. October 18, 2001. ?10 things you need to know about anthrax?.
CNN.com/HEALTH website. October 18, 2001. ?Timeline: Anthrax through the ages?.
Anthrax.osd.mil website. October 18, 2001. The Official DOD Website for the Anthrax Immunization Program.