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Anthrax is a disease which had little popularity until recently. It has especially gained notoriety since being referred to as ‘a weapon of mass destruction.” Since gaining publicity, it is something that is widely feared by people in the general community.
Anthrax, however, has been around for many years in many other countries prior to this.
 What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is a disease of plant eating animals such as cows, sheep and goats. It is caused by bacteria which is called Bacillis Anthracis. Anthrax used to be common in farming populations, but is rarely found in developed countries due to animal vaccination programs. Anthrax now is commonly found in countries which do not have immunisation controls.
 What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anthrax?
For humans, there are two form of anthrax, which are caused by either touch or inhalation.
Skin Infections are the most common kind of Anthrax, the bacteria enters the skin through cuts or scratches. When infected through the skin, skin sores develop within a few days. While the skin lesions begin as small red dots, they soon develop into large ulcers which are not painful. During this time, the lymph glands around the infection site may also become infected.
The fatality rate for this type of Anthrax is up to 20% if left untreated. However, if treated early, full recovery is expected.
Inhalation anthrax is just that, anthrax which is breathed in. The initial symptoms are much like those of Influenza; however as the spores grow on lung tissue, bleeding and fluid on the lungs soon follow. Infections caused by this type of Anthrax often prove fatal. If immediate medical attention is given shortly after exposure, full recovery is possible.
 How Long Does it Take to Develop Anthrax?
The symptoms of anthrax usually appear within 7 days of exposure.
 How is Anthrax Spread?
It is believed that Anthrax cannot be spread from person to person, therefore quarantine is not necessary. However, it is spread from contact with infected animals or animal products. This can include such things as wools, meats and hides. Touching infected items alone isn’t the only method of exposure; breathing in fibres can also cause infection.
 How is Anthrax Treated?
Anthrax is treated with antibiotics, however early treatment is paramount. Antibiotic treatment is also given to people who have been exposed but not yet shown symptoms of Anthrax.
 How Can I be Protected From Anthrax?
Anthrax spores can live in soils for many years. Especially in developing countries where no animal vaccination programs are established it is important to be aware of risk factors. One should avoid contact with animals and their by-products including wools, hides, feeds and meats. Any fertilizers made from deceased animals should also be avoided. If eating meat, you should also make sure it is very well cooked.
Some Anthrax vaccines have been developed, but these are generally only available to people who are in high risk positions.