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Anthrax | Print |

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that forms spores. A bacterium is a very small organism made up of one cell. Many bacteria can cause disease. A spore is a cell that is dormant (asleep) but may come to life with the right conditions. There are three types of anthrax: skin (cutaneous); lungs (inhalation); and digestive (gastrointestinal). Anthrax is not known to spread from one person to another.

Humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by breathing in anthrax spores from infected animal products (like wool, for example). People also can become infected with gastrointestinal anthrax by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.

Anthrax also can be used as a weapon. This happened in the United States in 2001. Anthrax was deliberately spread through the postal system by sending letters with powder containing anthrax. This caused 22 cases of anthrax infection.

The symptoms (warning signs) of anthrax are different depending on the type of disease:

  • Cutaneous: The first symptom is a small sore that develops into a blister. The blister then develops into a skin ulcer with a black area in the center. The sore, blister and ulcer do not hurt.
  • Gastrointestinal: The first symptoms are nausea, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea, and fever, followed by bad stomach pain.
  • Inhalation: The first symptoms of inhalation anthrax are like cold or flu symptoms and can include a sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches. (Caution: Do not assume that just because a person has cold or flu symptoms that they have inhalation anthrax.)
  • Anthrax symptoms can appear within 7 days of coming into contact with bacterium for all three types of anthrax. For inhalation anthrax, symptoms can appear within a week or can take up to 42 days to appear.
  • Antibiotics are used to treat all three types of anthrax. Early identification and treatment are important. 

Anthrax symptoms can appear within 7 days of coming into contact with bacterium for all three types of anthrax. For inhalation anthrax, symptoms can appear within a week or can take up to 42 days to appear.

Antibiotics are used to treat all three types of anthrax. Early identification and treatment are important.

If you are showing symptoms of anthrax infection, call your health care provider or local health department right away.

For more information, visit www.health.state.ga.us

 
 

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