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07/05/24 Public Health Education Topic: Anthrax



Anthrax is a serious disease usually caused by Bacillus anthracis bacteria. It's found naturally in soil around the world and commonly affects livestock and wild animals. People usually get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. People can breathe in anthrax spores, eat food or drink water contaminated with spores, or get spores in a cut or scrape in the skin.

Livestock and wild animals can become infected when they breathe in, eat, or drink spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water. These animals can include cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, and deer.

Anthrax is rare in the United States. However, occasional outbreaks do happen in wild and domestic grazing animals such as cattle or deer. In the United States, veterinarians recommend yearly vaccination of livestock in areas where animals have had anthrax in the past.

Most people will never be exposed to anthrax. However, there are jobs, hobbies, and activities that can put some people at higher risk of exposure.


The type of illness a person develops depends on how anthrax enters the body: through the skin, lungs, or gastrointestinal system. All types of anthrax can cause death if they're not treated with antibiotics.

There are four types of anthrax:

Cutaneous anthrax happens when anthrax spores get into a cut or scape on the skin when a person handles infected animals or contaminated animal products like wool, hides, or hair. It mostly shows up on the head, neck, forearms, and hands. It's the most common form of anthrax infection, and it's also considered to be the least dangerous.

Injection anthrax was identified in heroin-injecting drug users in northern Europe, but it hasn't been reported in the United States. Injection anthrax is similar to cutaneous anthrax and causes infection deep under the skin or in the muscle where the drug was injected.

Inhalation anthrax happens when a person breathes in anthrax spores. It's the deadliest form of the disease. People who work in places such as wool mills, slaughterhouses, and tanneries may breathe in the spores when working with infected animals or contaminated animal products. Inhalation anthrax starts primarily in the lymph nodes in the chest before spreading throughout the rest of the body.

Gastrointestinal anthrax happens when a person eats raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal. It has rarely been reported in the United States. It affects the upper gastrointestinal tract (throat and esophagus), stomach, and intestines, causing a wide variety of symptoms.

New disease caused by anthrax toxin‎:

Welder's anthrax is a newly identified and rare disease that has been found in several people who are welders or metalworkers. This disease causes severe pneumonia and can be fatal. If you are a welder or metalworker and you develop fever and chills with sudden cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or coughing up blood, see a healthcare provider immediately.

To learn more visit: About Anthrax | Anthrax | CDC



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