What is anthrax?
Anthrax is a rare infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can occur in wild and domestic hoofed animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, etc. It can also occur in humans when they are exposed to the bacterium. There are 3 forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation (lungs), and gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines). With intentional exposure, as in a bioterrorist release, breathing in the spores or contact with openings in the skin (cuts, scratches, abrasions, etc.) are the most likely routes of entry into the body. Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when people eat meat from anthrax-infected animals.
What are the symptoms of anthrax?
- Cutaneous (skin): exposed skin itches; large boil-like sore appears; sore becomes a black scab. If not treated, the infection can spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream.
- Inhalation (lungs): cold or flu-like symptoms; symptoms become severe with serious breathing problems.
- Gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines): fever; abdominal pain; loose, watery bowel movements; vomiting with blood in vomitus.
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