It is important to note the big difference between being exposed to
anthrax and being infected with it. Exposure to anthrax only means
that one has come in contact with the bacteria. Not everybody who
is exposed to anthrax becomes infected, although some do. Anthrax
infection means that the anthrax spores have invaded the body and
are multiplying, causing various signs and symptoms.
HOW IS ANTHRAX INFECTION DETECTED?
One way of detecting anthrax is by taking samples from inside the
nose by inserting a Q-tip into the nostrils. It is important to note,
however, that the results of this type of test may indicate that one
has not been exposed to anthrax when he/she actually has been.
Thus, this type of test is not entirely sensitive. To be sure that one actually has been exposed to anthrax,
laboratory tests are done by analyzing samples from blood, fluid from the lungs, abdomen, or from the
infected area of the skin. The cerebrospinal fluid (a cushiony liquid that protects the brain and spine) can
also be analyzed for anthrax exposure. All of these types of tests (except the test of samples taken from
the nose) take several days before the results come back.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON TYPE OF ANTHRAX INFECTION?
There are several types of anthrax infections. In humans, the most common type (95%) of anthrax
infection is cutaneous anthrax (the word "cutaneous" comes from the Latin word "cutis," meaning "skin").
In the cutaneous form, the anthrax bacteria enters the body through a break (either a cut or scratch) in
the skin. The break in the skin does not have to be clearly visible for anthrax to enter the body through
this route. Anthrax bacteria is typically encountered by touching infected animals or the skin of affected
animals. Most animals that are contaminated with anthrax are those that only eat vegetation (known as
herbivores). Goats, cattle, and sheep have been known to carry the disease. Anthrax is most commonly
seen in hoofed mammals that live in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF THE SKIN FORM OF ANTHRAX?
When anthrax is contracted via the skin, reddish brown bumps form on the skin. The center of these
bumps is typically black. These lesions form holes in the skin that eventually become dark scabs. Internal
bleeding occurs as well as fluid leakage in various organs and cavities (openings) of the body. This
occurs because the anthrax bacteria produce toxins in the body that are destructive to the human body.
An extreme loss of body strength is also seen.
HOW DOES THE SKIN FORM OF ANTHRAX RESPOND TO TREATMENT?
Cutaneous anthrax typically responds well to treatment, even after signs and symptoms occur. However,
the earlier the treatment occurs, the better the chances of survival are. Cutaneous anthrax is the least
deadly form of anthrax infection. See six questions down for specific drugs used to treat anthrax
CAN ANTHRAX INFECTION BE CAUSED BY BREATHING IN ANTHRAX?
Yes. Another way anthrax can be contracted is by breathing in the spores of the bacteria. Getting
infected by anthrax by breathing in the spores is known as pulmonary (referring to the lungs) anthrax. One
would typically need to breath in a large amount of the anthrax spores before getting infected in this
manner. Pulmonary anthrax is the most deadly form of this infection and the biggest threat to humans.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PULMONARY ANTHRAX?
When the anthrax infection is contracted in this way, the first signs and symptoms are flu-like (such as
chills, muscle-pain in the back and legs, headache, fever, nausea, and coughing), with no lesions on the
skin. Once signs and symptoms of pulmonary anthrax infection begin, it generally does not respond well
HOW DOES PULMONARY ANTHRAX RESPOND TO TREATMENT
If not treated early enough, pulmonary anthrax progresses quickly. Organ systems in the body can fail
and breathing ends, resulting in death. Death from pulmonary anthrax can also occur due to pneumonia,
and/or septicemia (poisoning of the blood). There is an 80% chance of dying within days to a week when
people infected with pulmonary anthrax take antibiotics after signs and symptoms occur. See three
questions down for specific drugs used to treat anthrax infection.
CAN I GET INFECTED BY ANTHRAX BY EATING FOODS CONTAMINATED WITH IT?
Yes. Anthrax can also be contracted through eating contaminated meat and in this case is called
intestinal anthrax. It is the most rare form of anthrax infection and the second most deadly.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF INTESTINAL ANTHRAX?
Symptoms of intestinal anthrax are similar to pulmonary anthrax, such as fever.
WHAT MEDICATIONS ARE USED TO TREAT ANTHRAX?
After anthrax infection is detected, most individuals are prescribed an antibiotic drug (a type of drug that
kills other organisms) called Cipro (short for ciprofloxacin). One should only take Cipro if anthrax infection
actually occurs. Cipro should not be taken in an attempt to try and prevent anthrax infection. The reason
for this is that bacteria tend to develop resistance to antibiotics over time. Thus, taking Cipro when there
is no anthrax infection can cause the body to be unable to fight it if an actual infection occurred in the
future. An additional reason not to take Cipro before being infected with anthrax is because Cipro has
several unpleasant side effects.
Along with Cipro (which is made by Bayer Corporation), there are two other drugs that are approved by
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat anthrax infection: Doxycycline and Penicillin. Other drugs
may be prescribed to treat anthrax infection that are not approved by the FDA. If anthrax is detected with
laboratory tests before signs and symptoms appear, it is controllable through antibiotics. The best results
occur with antibiotics when they are taken within 24-48 hours after infection.
IS IT EASY TO MAKE ANTHRAX?
Unfortunately, anthrax is pretty easy to make by someone with a basic knowledge of biology. Naturally,
MedFriendly does not condone the manufacturing of anthrax for the purpose of causing harm to others.
IS THERE A VACCINE FOR ANTHRAX?
A vaccine for anthrax was developed in the 1950s, but it is mainly used by military personnel and high-
level government officials due to the possibility of biological warfare. The anthrax vaccine is also used by
veterinarians, wool herders, and livestock handlers, who all have a higher risk of contracting the disease,
considering that infection can occur through touching animals contaminated with anthrax. Naturally,
laboratory workers that research anthrax also take the vaccine. An anthrax vaccine is not readily
available to the general public at this time. The only FDA license human anthrax vaccine is made by one
company, the Emergent Biodefense Corporation, located in Lansing, Michigan. Individuals who take this
vaccine do so in six shots over an 18 month period.
HOW LONG CAN THE ANTHRAX BACTERIA SURVIVE?
Anthrax can survive for decades because the spores of this bacteria have a very tough covering.
WHAT IS THE MORE TECHNICAL NAME FOR ANTHRAX?
The anthrax bacterium is technically named Bacillus anthracis because it is rod-shaped when looked at
under a microscope. The name "Bacillus" comes from the Latin word "baculus," meaning "rod."
WHAT ELSE IS ANTHRAX CALLED?
Pulmonary anthrax is also known as woolsorter's disease. This is because people who used to sort the
wool of animals had contracted it in this way.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM, ANTHRAX?
Anthrax is a Greek word meaning "charcoal." The reason for this is because when anthrax infects the
skin, it causes changes in the skin (such as holes and scabs) that look like charcoal or a charcoal on fire.
Anthrax is also known as charbon (pronounced shar-bawn), which is French for coal.