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FAQ's About Anthrax Threat

Here are the most important facts about the anthrax threat: Anthrax is not transmitted person to person. It is not easy to contract; in order to contract it, you would have to inhale it, eat it or put it in an open wound. It's a disease that is found in wild animals and domestic animals (i.e. cattle, sheep, goats, camels and antelopes). Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. There are three ways of contracting anthrax: inhalation - when spores are breathed in through the nose or mouth; cutaneous - when the spores enter the body through an open wound on the skin (e.g., a cut or abrasion when handling contaminated products or infected animals); intestinal - after eating contaminated meat.

Symptoms of anthrax vary depending on how the disease was contracted. If the spores are inhaled, the first signs of disease are usually flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, cough and mild chest discomfort, rapidly followed by severe respiratory distress and shock. In the case of cutaneous infection, painless blisters or purple patches. Preventive measures recommended by experts against anthrax: there is no need for people to take any extraordinary actions or steps. You should not go to a doctor or hospital unless you are sick. You should not buy and accumulate medicines or antibiotics. You should not buy gas masks. If anyone has been exposed, antibiotics are the appropriate preventive treatment. Experts do not recommend widespread use of antibiotics in the absence of suspected exposure because of the public health concerns of promoting antibiotic resistance, as well as concerns about individual risks of side effects in the probable absence of a mitigating therapeutic benefit.

Anthrax can be prevented by avoiding eating contaminated meat that has not been properly slaughtered and cooked or by avoiding contact with contaminated animal products (i.e. hides or internal organs).

A vaccine to protect against anthrax has been used for many years for individuals who have likely occupational exposure to anthrax (e.g., veterinarians). The full protective effect is present after a 6-dose course is completed over an 18-month period, and annual boosters are then needed to maintain immunity. Anthrax vaccine is not widely available. The vaccine is not practical for widespread use as it is not 100% effective, there may be side effects and it has to be taken many times over 18 months for it to become effective.

Gas masks that are available to the public are unlikely to be useful in providing protection. The quality of masks varies greatly, and masks need to be specifically fitted by a trained person. Filters need to be changed periodically. Further, to protect against an exposure the mask must be in place and operational at the time of exposure. Anthrax treatment - prompt treatment with high-dose antibiotics - oral ciprofloxacin or doxycycline.

Anthrax susceptibility. Drug susceptibility: susceptible to penicillin (except for inhalation anthrax in which the mortality remains high); ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, tetracylines, erythromycin, chloramphenicol. Disinfectant susceptibility: spores are resistant to many disinfectants; susceptible to 2% glutaraldehyde formaldehyde and 5% formalin (overnight soak preferable). Physical inactivation - spores are highly resistant to drying, heat, and sunlight; adequate sterilization requires direct exposure to 121°C for at least 30 min.

Anthrax survival : spores remain viable in soil, skins and hides of infected animals and contaminated air and wool for decades; survival in milk - 10 years; dried on filter paper - 41 years; dried on silk threads - up to 71 years; pond water - 2 years

What should you do if you receive a suspicious package or envelope? Do not open it, touch it nor taste it. Isolate the package by leaving it and securing the area.

Immediately call 911 and report your concerns so that local hazard material management officials and/or police enforcement agencies can intervene, if required. If you believe you have been in contact with a suspicious package or envelope, wash your hands immediately. Then you should contact a physician or go to the emergency department of your local hospital.

Anthrax antibiotics - Cipro is the only FDA approved antibiotic to fight anthrax. Other antibiotics used: penicillin (except for inhalation anthrax in which the mortality remains high); doxycycline, tetracylines, erythromycin, chloramphenicol.

CiproŽ is a prescription medication that is used to supress travelers diahrea. Bayer developed the first fluoroquinolone to be on the market, called ciprofloxacin. In 1987 CiproŽ was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States as the first oral broad-spectrum antibiotic of this class. An intravenous formulation followed in 1991. CiproŽ has been extensively studied and its safety profile is well documented in more than 32,000 publications. More than 250 million patients have been treated world-wide.

Anthrax means coal in Greek, and the disease is named after the appearance of its cutaneous form. Anthrax is described in the Old Testament, by the poet Virgil, and by the Egyptians. At the end of the 19th century, Robert Koch's experiments with anthrax led to the original theory of bacteria and disease. John Bell's work in inhalation anthrax led to wool disinfection processes and the term "wool sorter's disease." Anthrax is caused by inhalation, skin exposure, or gastrointestinal absorption. Inhalation disease is fatal, and symptoms usually begin days after exposure. This delay makes the initial exposure to anthrax difficult to track.