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Anthrax is a very dangerous disease caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis.
Anthrax is rare in the United States and is more commonly found in agricultural regions in:
- Central and South America
- Southern Europe
- The Caribbean
Outbreaks can occur in the U.S in both wild and domestic animals, including deer and livestock.
Anthrax can naturally be found in soil, which can infect grazing animals both wild and domestic. Animals can become infected when they breath in or eat the bacteria in contaminated soil, plants, water, etc. It is rare for humans to get an anthrax infection but they can become contaminated by the bacteria entering the body through consumption, inhalation, or open wounds and cuts. Common causes can also include ingesting raw meat from an infected animal. This is more common in areas that do not routinely vaccinate their livestock.
Symptoms can vary depending on what the infection type and can take up to a months to become symptomatic. Signs tend to form on the face, neck, and arms, and can include:
- Groups of small blisters
- Skin sores (ulcers)
- Swelling of the sore
Those who breathe in the bacteria can experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Vaccines are available for animals with the disease and routinely vaccinations are important where the outbreak has already occurred.
Anthrax is not contagious and infection only occurs when the bacterial spores enter the body.
Those who have already been exposed or have Anthrax will benefit from antibiotics.
If you work with animals in any setting, make sure to take extra precaution. Do not consume raw meat from animals that were injected, could have been infected, or even exposed to Anthrax. This is especially important when traveling to other countries where Anthrax is more common and animals are not routinely vaccinated.
Farmers, ranchers, slaughterhouse employees, and veterinarians have an increased risk of an Anthrax infection because of their exposure to animals.
- It has been known that infection can occur in people who play drums and instruments made with animal hide and fur.
- Hides and furs that are imported are a potential risk.
- To be safe, only use hides and furs from animals from the U.S that are more likely to be healthy.