(Para leer en Español, oprima aqui)
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL
What you should know
With the rising concern about its possible use as a terrorist weapon, anthrax (bacillus anthracis) has become a household name. Many of the reports of anthrax are hoaxes and play upon the fear people have of the unknown. The following are commonly asked questions:
What is anthrax?
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium. 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.
How common is anthrax and who can get it?
Anthrax is very rare in North America. In fact, there was only one case reported in the United States in the year 2000, and before that the last known case was in 1992. Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions where it occurs in animals as well as in dirt. These include South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, 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 anthrax. Anthrax in wild livestock has occurred in the United States.
How is anthrax transmitted?
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal (ingestion). Anthrax 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 States.
What is the preferred delivery method for terrorists?
As mentioned above, anthrax is most effective when it is inhaled. To even get it into the air is often the failing point for most terrorist groups. The spores must be captured in some other device that can be used to get them airborne. Additionally, the spores must be a precise size and shape (3-5 microns) to enter the lungs. Some common dispensers include aerosol cans, pressurized pipes and canisters, light as air powders and explosive devices. Once airborne, the spores must be aloft for enough time to be inhaled by the thousands before they can cause harm.
What are the symptoms of anthrax?
Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but symptoms usually occur within 7 days and may take as long as 50 days.
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 than other regions.
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 inhalation anthrax.
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. Using common protection and sanitation techniques are essential in preventing exposure. If an object or package is suspected then the following are some immediate levels of protection that can be used:
Also, an anthrax vaccine has been licensed for use in humans. The vaccine is reported to be 93% effective in protecting against anthrax. However, the vaccine is not yet widely available except to the military. So, the best advice is to immediately vacate the area where anthrax is suspected be present, and avoid touching your facial area or open sores on your body. Seeking immediate attention from responding emergency medical personnel is always an excellent precaution.
Is there treatment for anthrax?
Doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics. To be effective, treatment should be initiated early. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.
Where can I find more information about anthrax?
For further information regarding anthrax, you can access the Center for Disease Control's internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/anthrax_g.htm.
(Para leer en Espaoñl, oprima aqui)