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Anthrax is an infectious, often fatal, disease associated with animal
contact (mostly farm animals) and which, today, is rarely seen in the
United States but still exists in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Alternative names
wool sorter's disease

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is a disease of
sheep, cattle, horses, goats, and swine. Human infection, though rare, is
an occupational disease of farm workers, veterinarians, and tannery and
wool workers.

The disease has a skin form (cutaneous anthrax) and a pulmonary form
(inhalation anthrax). In the cutaneous form, the infection is transmitted
through a break in the skin. After lesions form and the dead tissue and
crusts fall off, infection may spread through the bloodstream and cause
shock, cyanosis, sweating, and collapse. The incidence is 1 out of 100,000

In the pulmonary form, infection occurs by breathing in anthrax spores.
The resultant pneumonia rapidly causes respiratory distress followed by
death. Meningitis can also develop. The incidence of inhalation anthrax is
very rare.

Because anthrax spores remain infectious for many years, the disease can
be picked up from old animal products such as sheep skins, wool blankets,
and so on. Because the spores are long lasting and the incubation is short
and disability is severe, experimentation with anthrax as a biological
weapon has been common.

Anthrax in the United States is extremely rare and special precautions are
not advised. A vaccine is available for travelers at risk for exposure to
animals or animal products in high-incidence countries.

a reddish brown sore that breaks open and forms a scab
general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
nausea & vomiting
shortness of breath
congestion of the nose and throat
chest pain
joint stiffness
joint pain

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