Everything about Anthrax

Everything about Anthrax

Anthrax, also called anthrax, is a disease that mainly affects animals today. We are going to discussed Everything about Anthrax. The bacteria that cause this disease is called Bacillus anthracis. People can also become infected with this bacteria and become ill. Improvements in hygiene conditions and the introduction of vaccination programs have resulted in a sharp decline in this number. Most infections occur in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, due to regular contact between humans and infected animals. In the Netherlands, only seven cases of anthrax in humans have been reported since 1976.

The bacteria forms spores that can survive in the soil for decades. Contamination occurs through contact of the spores with damaged skin, swallowing, or inhalation. The spores enter the lymph nodes, where they develop into bacteria. The bacteria make toxins that damage blood vessels. This can cause bleeding. The first symptoms usually occur 2 to 6 days after infection; however, this can vary from 1 day to 8 weeks.

Everything about Anthrax
Everything about Anthrax

Anthrax is a serious threat as a biological weapon. Especially the long survival time and the easy preservation of the spores make it suitable for this. In 1993 a report by the Office of Technology Assessment calculated that 100 kilograms of powdered anthrax strewn over a densely populated area in a windless night would lead to 3 million deaths in a few weeks. 

By air, the spores can be carried for more than 90 kilometers and quickly contaminate the respiratory tract of people and livestock. 17 countries are known to have a biological weapons program. It is not known how many of these countries work with anthrax, but this was known for Iraq. A simple way of spreading is by sending letters with traces of the anthrax bacteria. So far, most bioterrorist attacks have been committed like this. Another simple option is to spread the traces via ventilation systems in buildings.

Symptoms of anthrax

There are three forms of anthrax. These will be discussed one by one here.

The skin shape

In most cases of anthrax, namely 95 percent of the infections, it concerns the skin shape. The infection takes place through the skin, for example through a wound. A small, painless swelling develops that quickly turns into a blister. This blister then develops into a sore, which is covered with a black crust. In some cases, this skin lesion is also accompanied by general symptoms such as headache, mild fever, and a general feeling of being ill. Serious health problems can occur in about 10 to 20 percent of anthrax skin form.

The lung shape

Much rarer is contamination via the lungs, which occurs by inhaling the spores. The first signs are those of a common respiratory tract infection (tiredness, general ill feeling, mild fever, dry, non-productive cough, muscle pain). After two to four days, severe shortness of breath, high fever, and coughing up blood develop. This form of anthrax is usually very serious. Most people die within 24 hours of the onset of the first symptoms.

The gastrointestinal form

Contamination via the gastrointestinal tract (for example by eating undercooked meat from an infected animal) is also uncommon. At the beginning of the infection, there are general symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and lymph node swelling, and sometimes bloody diarrhea or vomiting blood. The course is fatal in 50 percent of the cases.

In 5 percent of all forms of anthrax, the disease is complicated by meningitis; this one is almost always deadly.

See also, Ebola virus disease

How does anthrax arise?

Infection usually occurs through direct skin contact with animals that suffer from or have died from the disease, but also through animal materials (wool, hair, bones). The stomach / intestinal form is caused by eating contaminated meat that has not been heated enough. The lung shape is created by inhaling the spores. Contamination can also occur after a bio-terrorist attack. The spores enter the lymph nodes, where the bacteria form. There they make toxic substances that damage the blood vessels.

Is it serious and what can you expect?

The course of the disease depends on the way in which the infection took place. Often in the beginning of the illness there are mild flu symptoms, which can get worse quickly. High fever, coughing up blood and vomiting blood may occur. Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics. However, prompt treatment is required.

When to go to the doctor?

The risk of anthrax infection via contaminated animal material (meat, fur) is generally very small. Persistent high fever, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, vomiting blood, bloody diarrhea and non-healing skin wounds are always reasons to visit your doctor. Today there is the threat of a bioterrorist attack with anthrax traces. In such a situation, the government will provide advice and guidelines. If necessary, the ministry and regional authorities will open a telephone information service, where you can go with questions and uncertainties.

What can you do about it yourself?

Prevention of contamination (prevention) is very important. When traveling in the tropics, it is best to pay close attention to your diet, such as only eating well-cooked meat. You should also stay away from dead animal carcasses, and certainly not touch them. If you did contract the disease, treatment is necessary. In the case of a bioterrorist attack, it is highly advisable to follow the directions of the authorities.

General advice and precautions for anthrax

When traveling in the tropics, it is wise to be careful about eating meat and other animal products. Not touching dead animals can also help prevent any possible anthrax infestation. It is highly advisable to follow the instructions of the authorities in the event of a terrorist attack.

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