- Anthrax is an acute infectious disease spread by a spore forming bacterium. It occurs most commonly in hoofed mammals and can also infect humans. It is often fatal but can be treated. Early treatment greatly enhances the chances of survival.
- Anthrax can be stored and delivered in powder, liquid, or paste form.
- Anthrax can be distributed in powdered form by mail or letters. Be suspicious of any envelopes or packages, which appear to contain powders or grainy, sandy substances inside.
- Anthrax is grown and maintained in cell cultures that are kept by research labs. It is not sold or otherwise legally distributed. Several countries have produced large quantities of anthrax as weapons.
- Anthrax can be inhales or swallowed... or it can infect the skin through direct contact. The symptoms will vary, depending on how contact with anthrax was made.
- Anthrax is not contagious from one person to another.
- Symptoms from anthrax contamination do not normally occur right away. They usually start around 10 days of contact, but can take up to 6 weeks to appear. It typically kills within 3days of the start of the symptoms.
- Initial symptoms of inhalation anthrax (anthrax which is inhaled) are normally flu-like: sniffing, coughing, fever, muscle aches. It rapidly progresses to more severe illnesses: plummeting blood pressure, swelling, hemorrhaging, pneumonia, and meningitis.
- Initial symptoms of coetaneous anthrax (anthrax which contacts the skin) are boil like lesions, which eventually form skin ulcers with a black center.
- Initial symptoms of intestinal anthrax (anthrax which is swallowed) include nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever... that are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea.
- In persons exposed to anthrax, infection can be prevented with antibiotic treatment.
- Early treatment of anthrax exposure is essential. Don’t delay.
- There is no anthrax vaccination readily to the general public. There is a vaccination available, but it requires 6 shots takes at intervals of several days. The vaccination is only available in sufficient quantities to treat military personnel and people who have been exposed to anthrax.
- Fortunately, most anthrax threats turn out to be hoaxes. However, every anthrax threat should be taken very, very seriously.
(Compiled from various sources including the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Philadelphia Division of Disease Control)
How to Handle an Anthrax Threat
Many facilities in communities around the country have received anthrax threat letters. Most were empty envelopes; some have contained powdery substances. The purpose of these guidelines is to recommend procedures for handling such incidents.
Do Not Panic
- Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. To do so, the organism must be rubbed into abraded skin (cuts, scratches, or open sores)... swallowed... or inhaled as a fine mist.
- Disease can be prevented after exposure to the anthrax spores by early treatment with the Appropriate antibiotics.
- Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.