Anthrax is a disease of grazing animals such as sheep and cattle. It is one of the oldest recorded diseases and was even mentioned as sixth plague in the book of Exodus in the Bible. It is also known to infect human beings when they come in contact with infected animal hide, fur, wool, leather or contaminated soil. It is caused by bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis.
The bacteria spores have a long life time and are present globally at animal burial sites of anthrax killed animals for decades. There are instances where the infection was caused freshly in animals even 70 years after the burial sites of anthrax-infected animals were disturbed.
Robert Koch, a German scientist, was the first to identify the anthrax bacteria in 1875. Louis Pasteur, a French scientist, invented a vaccine for anthrax in 1881. Use of this vaccine has helped in controlling the disease, and anthrax infection of domestic animals has become very rare. This disease is more common in developing countries where veterinary and public health programs are in infancy.
Grazing animals get infected while eating rough or spiky vegetation. Such vegetation causes wounds within the gastric tract and provides entry for the bacteria within the tissues. When the bacterium gets placed in an open cut, they begin to multiply and the host gets killed within a few weeks. The bacterium produces two exo-toxins, edema toxin and lethal toxin, which causes death.
Exposure to infected animals or their products is the usual route for the humans to get infected. The common symptoms are given below.
- Fever accompanied by chills or night sweats
- Flu-like symptoms
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- A sore either in the face or arm that develops into an ulcer with a black center
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