What Is It?
Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. It is a disease most commonly seen in animals, especially hoofed animals such as cows, sheep, goats and horses. Humans occasionally become infected with anthrax when they eat meat or handle the wool, hair or bones of an animal infected with anthrax. There are 2000-5000 cases of anthrax worldwide, and about 5 cases a year in the United States. Experts believe that anthrax is among the diseases which could be used as a biological weapon. The form of anthrax that causes infection is called the anthrax spore.
How Would Someone Get Anthrax and What Are The Symptoms?
The illness a person gets when they are infected with Bacillus anthracis depends on how the bacteria got into the person's body. There are three different types of anthrax disease:
Inhalation anthrax is the most serious form of anthrax and is caused by inhaling anthrax spores into the lungs. Initial symptoms usually begin 1-6 days after infection, but can occur as late as 60 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, headache, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, weakness, and chest discomfort. Without treatment, severe breathing problems and death usually result. Inhalation anthrax is NOT contagious (spread person-to-person).
Cutaneous anthrax is caused when the anthrax spores come into direct contact with skin that has a cut or break in it. Cutaneous anthrax begins within 1 to 7 days after exposure and first causes a raised, itchy bump that resembles an insect bite. Within 1-2 days after the appearance of the bump, a small blister(s) develops. This blister then becomes a painless sore with a black center. Lymph glands in the area of the infection may swell.
Intestinal anthrax is caused by eating meat from an animal that has died of anthrax or by drinking other foods or liquids contaminated with anthrax spores. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, pain in the abdomen, and diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax symptoms appear within 1 to 7 days after exposure.
If untreated, each of these forms of anthrax can spread to the blood, brain, or spine and cause severe illness or death.
Testing and Diagnosis
Law enforcement and Public Health authorities determine if an anthrax threat or suspicious substance represents a credible threat and is potentially dangerous. If so, the letter or substance can be tested for anthrax. Treatment of persons exposed in such circumstances is usually postponed until laboratory results are available.
There is no laboratory test to test for anthrax before symptoms begin.
Nasal swabs are sometimes obtained during investigations of confirmed or likely anthrax exposures, but are not useful or available outside of these circumstances. Persons with a documented anthrax exposure are advised to take preventive antibiotics.
The preventive treatment for anthrax consists of antibiotic treatment alone or in combination with anthrax vaccine.
The duration of antibiotic treatment is 30-60 days, depending on whether anthrax vaccine is used.
When available, the anthrax vaccination series consists of 3 or more doses of anthrax vaccine.
If you have further questions you can contact
the Health Department by email: or call (509) 223-4565 (Goldendale) or (509)493-1558 (White Salmon).
Date of Source Material: 2/2/2006
Source: Public Health
Link to Source:
Kevin Barry: Director
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. M-F
**In Case of Public Health Emergency call
228 W Main St, MS-CH-14
Goldendale, WA 98620
Fax: 509 773-5991
Phone: 509 773-4565
White Salmon Office:
501 NE Washington
PO BOX 159
White Salmon, WA 98672
Fax: 509 493-4025
Phone: 509 493-1558