A is for Anthrax


(Bacillus anthracis)

Anthrax is a naturally occurring gram-positive rod shaped bacteria that is in many soils. Although its notoriety has grown as a biological weapon, it is generally not contagious from one person to another. It is most commonly transmitted to people that come in contact with an infected animals or a contaminated environment. Animals generally become infected after ingesting the anthrax spores from the environment.

Although naturally occurring anthrax in the United States is rare thanks to public health and vaccination efforts,  there are occasional outbreaks in wild and domesticated animals. Anthrax is most common in developing countries and those without preventatives measures, most commonly in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, central and southwestern Asia, and southern and eastern Europe.

How do you avoid getting anthrax?

  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat from infected animals
  • If working with animals that are suspected to have anthrax, use proper precautions – wear gloves, masks, and keep flesh wounds covered to prevent contamination
  • Don’t inject heroin (better yet, don’t use it at all) – this is a newly discovered problem in northern Europe!

What does anthrax look like in a person?

  • Cutaneous anthrax looks like small blisters or bumps that may itch that then becomes a painless ulceration of the skin with a black center.
  • Inhalation anthrax can look like many things – fever and chills, shortness of breath, chest pain/congestion, confusion or dizziness, coughing, nausea, vomiting, extreme tiredness, and body aches – sounds like so many things we can have and think is “the flu” or a “bad cold.”
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax looks like inhalation anthrax, but then put in some swollen glands, painful swallowing, sore throat, hoarseness, diarrhea, and headache – still sounds like “the flu” for most people.
  • Injection anthrax is just like cutaneous anthrax, except is also has deep abscesses where the injection occurred and can spread more quickly throughout the body.

Diagnosis occurs using blood tests that need to be done prior to starting antibiotics. Treatment of Anthrax includes antibiotics and sometimes antitoxins.

Anthrax in animals can look like anthrax in people, although will often be found after death. Areas of hemorrhage (bleeding) are common signs under the skin.

A to Z 2014

A to Z 2014


35 thoughts on “A is for Anthrax

  1. This is very scary and a tactic that has been used by terrorists. I never thought that anthrax could pose a problem for my pet too. When walking in the park with our dog we try to avoid certain things like other pets feces. I guess I never thought about this before. Thanks for posting this. Great start to the A-Z!


  2. Many things that can be found in nature can be used as weapons. It’s rather scary how easily this one is to manufacture and distribute. Most of these are caught early enough and I believe are generally used by amateurs. Thank goodness here in the US our vaccination program and public awareness has helped stave this virus off. Thanks for sharing the details. I’m always so fascinated with this kind of stuff. Have you ever heard of GiantMicrobes.com These are my ultimate in plush toys! 🙂

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
    My A to Z
    Caring for My Veteran


  3. Great topic for the start of A/Z! I didn’t realize, too, that pets could get Anthrax! Makes you want to make sure you know what your pets are up to, especially when out and about among other dogs.



    • This is why a good relationship with a veterinarian is important! There are a lot of crazy things out there, the avetage person can’t be expected to know about all of them! Thanks for commenting!


  4. I came back to this post instead of the D post to comment. I love your theme and I am already learning so much. When we had pets when I was kid, I was the one who went with my Mom to bring our pets to the vet but I never paid attention. Of course, I was also the one who brought home the strays and adopted them 🙂

    Our two dogs picked up hookworms back when they were about 2 or 3 months old. It was from the soil in the landscaping surrounding our condo building. I am so thankful there are many vet clinics near our home and the one we chose took very good care of them. We’re completing their immunizations now. My brother lost their family’s 3 year old Mini Pinscher to this around the same time my dogs were sick. It never occurred to them to bring the cutie to a vet because they thought the vaccines he had were enough. It was so sad.

    Thanks for sharing what you know with us and for the interesting stories too (liked that one about the Halloween mask and 911). Enjoy your weekend!


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