Remember anthrax? Anthrax exposure is in the news again. According to the Centers For Disease Control, 86 workers may have been exposed to anthrax.
What makes anthrax so dangerous? Anthrax is the result of a deadly bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis . Deadly anthrax spores can be ingested through inhalation or ingestion through the mouth. A particularly dangerous situation is created whenever a bacterial spore can be inhaled.
Anthrax infects an individual once it enters the body. Like other bacteria, bacterial growth occurs once the spore enters the body. Think about it like the spread of unwanted weeds. One weed turns into 2, and 2 weeds turn into 4. In a short time period, your garden is full of weeds! Anthrax is like a weed to your garden, and your garden is your body.
Is anthrax a biological weapon? The Centers of Disease Control takes anthrax outbreaks very seriously. Due to anthrax spores being very stable, the history of anthrax exposures causing a high fatality rate, and the capability of the spores to spread through inhalation, the CDC views anthrax as a very likely biological weapon.
Is there treatment? The good news is that bacteria can be killed. After the anthrax terrorist attacks in 2001, the Center of Disease Control formulated a guide for post-exposure treatment. In addition, a vaccine has been created. Unfortunately, the vaccine is very limited and quantities are not available for a wide spread attack. Healthcare providers in general will not have access to this vaccine unless an outbreak occurs.
What is the treatment? Post-exposure antibiotics are recommended by the CDC to any individual who may have been in contact with anthrax. Officially, the recommendations call for 60 days of antibiotic use. With addition to antibiotics, the CDC recommends vaccination. The idea is that the vaccine will help protect against anthrax after the initial 60 days of antibiotics.
Fortunately, exposure to anthrax spores is rare in humans. In the past, animals have contracted anthrax through means of infected soil, plants, or food. When this occurs, vaccination of the livestock prevents an outbreak. Anthrax is rare in America and more common in developing countries.
Overall, anthrax can be deadly. Although the recent news of exposure to workers is a scare, the CDC has a treatment plan to follow. Be safe!
Sources: Centers for Disease Control