Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Anthrax Transmission

Anthrax is not contagious, which means the infection cannot spread from one person to another. People can be infected by anthrax when spores are eaten, inhaled into the lungs, or come into contact with the skin. When the spores germinate, the bacteria produce toxins that destroy tissue and disrupt normal body functions.

People can be exposed to anthrax in the following ways:

  • Contact with the hair, skin, or tissues of mammals that are infected with anthrax
  • Contact with spores from an anthrax laboratory
  • Contact with soil that contains spores: present in the soil in parts of Haiti, South Africa and Asia
  • Bioterrorism: anthrax spores are attached to very fine, airborne particles

Anthrax can spread more easily among herds of hooved animals in underdeveloped nations. These countries do not vaccinate animals that are exposed to the disease. Handling the skin and hair from an infected goat is especially dangerous. Anthrax is extremely rare in US animals or in US soil.

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Anthrax References
  1. Cuneo BM. Inhalational anthrax. Respir Care Clin N Am. 2004 Mar;10(1):75-82. [15062228]
  2. Kalamas AG. Anthrax. Anesthesiol Clin North America. 2004 Sep;22(3):533-40, vii. [15325717]
  3. Reissman DB, Whitney EA, Taylor TH Jr, Hayslett JA, Dull PM, Arias I, Ashford DA, Bresnitz EA, Tan C, Rosenstein N, Perkins BA. One-year health assessment of adult survivors of Bacillus anthracis infection. JAMA. 2004 Apr 28;291(16):1994-8. [15113818]
  4. Wenner KA, Kenner JR. Anthrax. Dermatol Clin. 2004 Jul;22(3):247-56, v. [15207306]
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