Jobs @ MG
Anthrax: no reason to panic
|In the context of Anthrax scare around
the world, the following suggestions are for readers’ information,
understanding and identification of such articles received in mail. So
far, there has not been a single case in India of a postal article having
been found to contain Anthrax. Therefore there is no reason to panic.
> Letters containing powdery/stiff material
> Letters containing lumpy material giving foul odor
> Letters/ parcels having excessive postage and addressed to well known
> Letters containing markings like
'DO NOT X_RAY',
'DO NOT OPEN',
'TO BE OPENED BY THE ADDRESSEE ONLY'
Sender identified as well known public
Letters having excessive weight
Suspicious or unknown substance leaking
from postal item
Excessive taped articles
Personal notations or greetings on outside
Unusual return name and address
In case the members of public receive any such suspicious letter/parcel
they should immediately hand it over to the Police. They should wash their
hands, in case of having handled any suspicious article.
1. What is anthrax?
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming
bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and
domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and
other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed
to infected animals or tissue from infected animals.
2. Why has anthrax become a current issue?
Since anthrax is considered to be a potential agent for use in biological
warfare, the Department of Defense (DoD) has begun mandatory vaccination
of all active duty military personnel who might be involved in conflict.
3. How common is anthrax and who can get it?
Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions where it occurs in animals.
These include South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe,
Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. When anthrax affects humans,
it is usually due to an occupational exposure to infected animals or their
products. Workers who are exposed to dead animals and animal products from
other countries where anthrax is more common may become infected with B.
anthracis (industrial anthrax). Anthrax in wild livestock has occurred in
the United States.
4. How is anthrax transmitted?
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation,
and gastrointestinal. B. anthracis spores can live in the soil for many
years, and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products
from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated
animal products. Anthrax can also be spread by eating undercooked meat
from infected animals. It is rare to find infected animals in the United
5. What are the symptoms of anthrax?
Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but
symptoms usually occur within 7 days.
Cutaneous: Most (about 95%) anthrax infections occur when the bacterium
enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated
wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected
animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an
insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a
painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black
necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may
swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in
death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
Inhalation: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several
days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock.
Inhalation anthrax is usually fatal.
Intestinal: The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the
consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute
inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of
appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of
blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to
60% of cases.
6. Where is anthrax usually found?
Anthrax can be found globally. It is more common in developing countries
or countries without veterinary public health programs. Certain regions of
the world (South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia,
Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East) report more anthrax in animals
7. Can anthrax be spread from person-to-person?
Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely to occur.
Communicability is not a concern in managing or visiting with patients
with inhalational anthrax.
8. Is there a way to prevent infection?
In countries where anthrax is common and vaccination levels of animal
herds are low, humans should avoid contact with livestock and animal
products and avoid eating meat that has not been properly slaughtered and
cooked. Also, an anthrax vaccine has been licensed for use in humans. The
is reported to be 93% effective in protecting against anthrax.
9. What is the anthrax vaccine?
The anthrax vaccine is manufactured and distributed by BioPort,
Corporation, Lansing, Michigan. The vaccine is a cell-free filtrate
vaccine, which means it contains no dead or live bacteria in the
preparation. The final product contains no more than 2.4 mg of aluminum
hydroxide as adjuvant. Anthrax vaccines intended for animals should not be
used in humans.
10. How is anthrax diagnosed?
Anthrax is diagnosed by isolating B. anthracis from the blood, skin
lesions, or respiratory secretions or by measuring specific antibodies in
the blood of persons with suspected cases.
11. Is there a treatment for anthrax?
Doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics. To be effective, treatment
should be initiated early. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal. q
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