Anthrax – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention, Vaccine

By | July 27, 2015

What Is Anthrax ? Fast Facts on Anthrax :

Anthrax is a rare bacterial infection caused by Bacillus anthrasis bacterium. Often it affects the cattle and the infection is transmitted to humans through direct contact with animals or by insect bites. Anthrax infection can affect your lungs and gastrointestinal tract causing breathlessness, cough and nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases it can cause bowel disease and can become fatal. If diagnosed in early stages, anthrax can be treated with antibiotics easily. It is difficult to treat anthrax infection that is inhaled.

Symptoms :

According to the intensity of infection, symptoms of anthrax vary widely. Initial symptoms begin to appear within a week of getting the infection from bacteria. Anthrax can affect skin, lungs, and intestine producing various symptoms.

  • Skin infection :

Anthrax bacterium can gain entry into the skin through small cut or wounds on your skin. The infection is very mild causing symptoms like itchy bumps on the infected site of the skin, slight swelling of skin and inflammation of lymph nodes. This is cutaneous anthrax infection.

  • Intestinal Infection :

People can get this infection by eating partially cooked meat of infected animals. Some of the common symptoms of gastrointestinal infection are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, bloated or fullness in the stomach, fever, headache and diarrhea.

  • Inhaled infection :

Anthrax can become fatal if you inhale the infectious bacteria accidentally. It is the most complicated type of anthrax infection which can cause death even if treated. The infected person will get flu like symptoms showing fever, cold, body pain. Subsequently he/she may develop chest pain, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and coughing up blood. As the bacterium multiplies quickly inside, the person can have high fever with difficulty in breathing and in final stages inflammation of brain causing meningitis.

Causes :

Anthrax is caused by anthrax bacteria that live in moist soil. It remains in the form of spores and can live for many years until it finds a suitable host. Some of the animals that carries anthrax infection are sheep, horses and other livestock. Anthrax is reported to develop in Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and even in some parts of Africa. Humans can get transmitted with anthrax only through direct contact of infected animals or by inhalation of anthrax spores.

Who are at risk?

People whose job involves working with cattle, handling skins of dead animals, and those working in veterinary medicine have chance of transmission of anthrax bacteria from animals.

Incubation Period :

Once the bacteria gains entry into the body it takes about 5-7 days to become active and produce symptoms.

Tests :

Your doctor would rule out other infectious diseases like flu or pneumonia before detecting and confirming anthrax. He may request for skin testing by taking a small tissue sample from your skin. Further he may ask for blood culture, X-ray and CT scan of chest to rule out inhalation anthrax. To diagnose gastrointestinal anthrax, you may be asked for stool sample.

Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Anthrax :

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Treatment :

If you are diagnosed with anthrax you will be put on antibiotics of strong dose like ciprofloxacin or vibramycin. Your doctor will decide on the course of medication depending on the intensity of infection and your health factors. It is difficult to treat anthrax that is inhaled even by powerful antibiotics since the bacteria would have produced volumes of toxins inside your body.

Prevention :

If you are visiting anthrax prone area you can take preventive measures like taking antibiotics after consulting your doctor. Vaccine is available to prevent anthrax but is not recommended for older adults and children due to adverse effects. Avoid contacting the animals if you think they are infected. Eat only fully cooked meat. Take precautions while handling animal skins.

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