Words in the news- Talking about anthrax again, but no one seems to be panicking

Anthrax- a scary word due to its association with the threat of biological warfare. And not just in the plot of an apocalyptic movie. In 2001, anthrax spores were used to contaminate U.S.mail, killing 5 people who were exposed. But the disease anthrax, caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, is rare and not uniformly fatal.

When I attended medical school, we learned it as “woolsorter’s disease” since the spores can be released from processing wool or animal hides. The bacteria live in soil, so are spread wherever soil goes.

Anthrax is also known as woolsorter's disease.
Anthrax is also known as woolsorter’s disease.
Most humans who get infected develop skin lesions, the cutaneous form of anthrax and the most common. Breathing or eating the spores however can lead to inhalation or gastrointestinal anthrax which are life threatening.

Fortunately, antibiotics are effective against anthrax . There is also a vaccine which currently is only used in situations of possible exposure such as military service or work in a research lab.

The Merck Manual provides a complimentary, helpful synopsis of the condition here-

via Anthrax – Bacterial Infections – Merck Manual Consumer Version.

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