The Anthrax Unrevealed

Bio Terrorism
Anthrax is a lethal disease that can be spread just by inhaling it. It kills 90% of those infected. Potential terrorists can produce anthrax without access to exotic chemicals. A few kilograms of Anthrax over a large city on a single night can kill about millions of people. This is every bit as deadly as a multi-ton Atom Bomb.

Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is infrequent in Western Europe and the US, and is more likely to be found in animals in South and Central America, South and East Europe, Asia and Africa. Those at highest risk are those who directly handle dead animals, such as abattoir workers and tanners.

These bacteria can form spores, which can enter the body through consumption of contaminated meat, or inhaled, or simply infect the skin directly through human to animal contact.

It is not spread from person to person, though medical professionals recommend that the clothing and other soiled articles of the infected should be burned.

Those infected can also be cured with an antibiotic if it is administered within 12 hours of infection - penicillin will work, though penicillin-resistant strains of Anthrax exist.

What are the Symptoms?

What makes anthrax dangerous is that the symptoms are often difficult to distinguish from other, less serious infections.

There are three types of anthrax, depending on where the infectious spore has arrived on the patient.

The first, cutaneous anthrax, is the least serious of the three, and produces a skin lesion, which is rarely painful. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread and cause blood poisoning, which is fatal in one in 20 cases.

The second type is intestinal anthrax, caused by the consumption of contaminated meat. This produces severe food-poisoning type symptoms, leading to fever and blood poisoning. It is frequently fatal.

The third is respiratory anthrax, which happens when spores are breathed in by the patient and lodge in the lung. Symptoms of this disease start out as similar to simple flu, but respiratory symptoms rapidly worsen and the patient usually goes into some kind of shock between two and six days later.

The Cure

If the disease is untreated or treatment is ineffective, death follows within days in more than 80% of cases.

Giving antibiotics to anthrax patients can cure the disease, particularly the cutaneous variety.

However, unless they are given swiftly after intestinal or respiratory infection, the chances of cure are greatly reduced.

There is a vaccine against anthrax, but this is not recommended except for those at high risk, such as meat industry workers and laboratory scientists handling the disease.