Symptoms & Disease
Anthrax is a zoonosis a disease of herbivorous animals like sheep, goat and cattle etc transmissible secondary to man.-A legendary gram positive bacterial infection believed to have been essentially eliminated , has now returned to the centre stage due to fear in the minds of people as use of biological war fare by terrorist group following attack on buildings on world trade centre and Pentagon in USA on September 11 2001.
The biological weapons are defined as any infectious agents such as bacteria virus or their toxin used intentionally to inflict harm on others. They are cheap easy to make and simple to conceal.. The terrorist who lack money to spend on high tech killing instrument prefer to use biological weapons. Anthracis is most effective as a biological weapon when converted into a powder , which can be inhaled. It is transmitted by the spore of bacillus Anthracis, and source of spores is usually bacilli shed in large numbers from nose , mouth and anus of animals in terminal stages of infection.
In man infection is acquired from animals usually through damaged skins or mucous membranes or more rarely by inhalation of spores into the lungs. Infection occurs mostly through the skin in persons such as farmers and veterinary surgeons handling infected animals or among the dock workers , factory workers and farmers from handling carcases , hides , animal hair , bristles , shaving brushes , feeding stuffs , bone meal and other bone products. In the terminal stages of septicemic animals , the bacteria are present in very large numbers in faeces , urine ,saliva and these contaminate the ground and pasture. Contamination of soil and pastures also result from the exudates of dead animals .The bacteria turn to spores after being shed and spores may remain viable for years in the soil.
Direct inoculation into the skin , inhalation of spores, insect bites from infected animal wounds and consumption of contaminated meat are the routes in human transmission.
95% in human is cutaneous anthrax (skin). The lesion starts as a papule and then becomes a blister in 24-48 hours and then becomes a pustule with increasing areas of inflammation, oedema , depending upon the resistance of a person. The prognosis becomes poor in patients with septicaemia.
5% infection may result from inhalation of spores carried in dust or filaments of wool from infected animals
Bacillus Anthracis belongs to the genus Bacillus whose members are large straight Gram positive rods occurring in chains growing aerobically forming heat resistant spores. The spores are resistant to chemical disinfectant and heat. Spores may resist dry heat at 140 for 1 – 3 hours and boiling or steam at 100C for 5 to 10 mins > how ever autoclaving at 121 c destroys them in 15 mins
Films made from the fluid of vesicle stained by Grams method showing bacilli morphologically like B anthracis is suggestive of anthrax.
2) Cultures from the fluid of vesicles on nutrient agar. The typical medusa head colonies are obtained after night incubation , then showing b anthracis by Gram staining of films from these colonies- some spores may be seen in long tangled stains of large Gram positive Bacilli.
3) Confirmation that the organism is B.Anthracis is provided by animal inoculation. When animal dies , the post mortem appearances and bacilli can be demonstrated in heart blood and spleen in large numbers.
1) Flu like symptoms , starting with common cold to breathing problems later 2) skin blisters 3)Abdominal pain 4) Dysentery/loose motion
If correctly diagnosed and promptly treated the infection is curable. While penicillin is drug of choice in those drug sensitive patients, ciprofloxacin,tetracycline and others can be used. The crux is timely institution of treatment to save the patient.
While handling material suspected of containing anthrax spores one should wear protective gears like mask , goggle , apron and gloves
1) Avail medical advice if u get symptoms like fever , pain in chest , difficulty in breathing , pustules on body , pain in abdomen , loose motion etc without delay
2) Precautions are to be taken while opening the postal envelopes and ascertain the source of it, if you get suspicious powder in it , inform the police station at once and hand over the envelope to the police if some powder spills over the body wash it with soap .
3)Drink boiled water
4) Effective drugs are available against anthrax .Avail as per medical advice if necessary.
1) Do not neglect oneself or bear the illness if one gets symptoms like pain in chest , fever , difficulties in breathing , pustules on body etc
2) Do not open suspicious postal envelopes. If you get suspicious powder in the envelope don’t forget to switch off the fan or A/C unit
3) Don’t eat meat from unauthorized meat shops
4) Don’t spread panic rumours about Anthrax