Anthrax infection can occur in the following three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation (lungs), and gastrointestinal (digestive). Cutaneous anthrax is associated with a 20% chance of death but is rarely fatal if treated. Gastrointestinal anthrax can usually be treated with antibiotics but is associated with a 25-60% chance of death. Inhalation anthrax is the most difficult form to treat and is usually deadly.
Spores (cells that are dormant but may become active under the right conditions) can live in the soil for years, and humans may become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Additionally, anthrax can also be spread by eating undercooked meat from infected animals, which does not usually occur in the United States. Anthrax can be found in various parts of the world. However, it is found more frequently in developing countries.
Individuals may also be exposed to anthrax when anthrax is used as a biological weapon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anthrax spores were deliberately spread in powder-containing envelopes through the U.S. postal system in 2001.
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types of the disease
Cutaneous or skin anthrax infections are the most common form, occurring in approximately 95% of cases. Bacteria enter a cut or abrasion on the skin when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather, or hair products of infected animals.
Approximately 20% of untreated cutaneous anthrax cases will result in death. Therefore, receiving antibiotics as soon as possible after exposure is extremely important. Individuals with cuts or open sores are more likely to develop cutaneous anthrax.
Gastrointestinal anthrax: Gastrointestinal anthrax may be caused by eating undercooked meat from animals infected with anthrax. If treatment is not initiated, death may occur. This form of anthrax results in death in 25%
to 60% of cases.
Individuals may contract inhalation anthrax by inhaling anthrax spores. Inhalation anthrax is deadly in approximately 75% of cases.