Font Size
A
A
A

Anthrax


Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease of cattle, horses, sheep, and goats in underdeveloped agricultural regions of South and Central America, southern and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean as well as in wild livestock in the United States. Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which produces spores that spread the infection.

Anthrax can occur in humans who have been exposed to infected animals or animal products or to anthrax spores. Anthrax is not a contagious disease and cannot be spread from person to person. Humans can become infected with anthrax in three ways:

  • Through a break in the skin (cutaneous anthrax)
  • By eating contaminated food (gastrointestinal anthrax and oropharyngeal [back of the throat] anthrax)
  • By breathing the bacterial spores (inhalational anthrax)

In a terrorist attack, bacteria such as Bacillus anthracis could be released into the air or in water or food. Anyone who inhaled, drank, or ate the bacteria could be infected.

Anthrax from all three types of exposure can be treated with antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, or penicillin. Prompt treatment may help reduce the potential severity of the infection. There is also a vaccine against anthrax. Currently, this vaccine is not recommended or available for the general public.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Last RevisedMay 31, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.



NIH talks about Ebola on WebMD


Medical Dictionary