Anthrax

Bacillus anthracis

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Changed on: 22.01.2019
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Anthrax (Greek name for dark, coal skin lesions on the skin of infected people) is an animal disease and zoonosis caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It is of high significance in both humans and animals, in particular in Asia, Africa and South America.

Anthrax occurs around the globe and can be found very often in warmer regions with intensive livestock farming. The bacterium is only found sporadically in Western, Northern and Central Europe, thanks to the regulated disposal of animal carcasses and inoculations. The last known cases in cattle in Austria were discovered in Styria in 1979, Salzburg in 1980 and in Tyrol in 1988.

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Anthrax (Greek name for dark, coal skin lesions on the skin of infected people) is an animal disease and zoonosis caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It is of high significance in both humans and animals, in particular in Asia, Africa and South America.

Anthrax occurs around the globe and can be found very often in warmer regions with intensive livestock farming. The bacterium is only found sporadically in Western, Northern and Central Europe, thanks to the regulated disposal of animal carcasses and inoculations. The last known cases in cattle in Austria were discovered in Styria in 1979, Salzburg in 1980 and in Tyrol in 1988.

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Transmission

The anthrax pathogens (Bacillus anthracis) get into the soil via animal excretion, burying of dead animals and factory sewage (e.g. tanneries, wool factories) where they can survive for decades. The anthrax spores (dormant form) can return to the surface later as the result of flooding or digging and infect animals again (soil-animal-soil cycle). The pathogen may be imported from other countries via imported animal products, fertilisers and feedstuff (bone meal, meat meal, blood meal, skins, fur, hair, contaminated plant-based feedstuffs).

The direct transmission from infected animals to humans is very rare. The disease is predominantly transmitted indirectly via imported, contaminated animal products (shaving brushes made of Chinese horse hair, goat hair from Pakistan, wool from Asia: Woolsorters’ disease, “Hadern- oder Lumpenkrankheit“ in Austria in the 19th century).

Symptoms

Cutaneous anthrax is the most common form of anthrax in humans. The infection is caused via minute skin lesions. Cutaneous anthrax is usually benign.

Gastrointestinal anthrax is much rarer and far more dangerous than cutaneous anthrax. It is caused after eating raw or inadequately cooked meat from infected animals.

Inhalation or pulmonary anthrax is caused when very fine particulates or aerosols contaminated with spores are inhaled. This form is mostly terminal.

Infected animals might exude blood (particularly dark) from body openings before they die.

 

 

Combating Anthrax

The disease is combated by the regulated disposal of animal cadavers and prophylactic vaccination in endangered regions with prior cases of anthrax.

 

 

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