Anthrax bacteria can be transmitted to humans from animals infected by contact with a deep wound, digestive tract or respiratory tract. Anthrax disease, which continues to reproduce and secretes toxins after entering the human body, can become fatal if left untreated. After early diagnosis, it is possible for the person to recover by being supervised in the hospital and undergoing antibiotic treatment.
Although anthrax disease has not caused mass deaths in society, it is one of the important diseases that have made world history. Anthrax disease, also known as the fifth plague in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, has become rare in direct proportion to the decrease in anthrax in animals today. Although it is less common in developed countries, anthrax disease is still found in some countries such as Africa, South America and Asia. In our country, anthrax disease is considered an endemic disease, but its incidence has decreased significantly. Anthrax disease, which can be seen in many cities, especially in the Eastern Anatolia Region, occurred in only 37 people in 2017. However, this figure is the highest number of patients seen among European countries Decently in that year.
Symptoms of Anthrax Disease
Depending on the route of entry of anthrax bacteria into the body, the symptoms of the disease differ.
The most common type of anthrax disease is cutaneous anthrax and accounts for 95% of human anthrax cases. Bacterial spores enter the skin from areas where skin integrity is impaired, such as scratches, cuts and scratches. The symptoms of anthrax appear within 1-2 days on average. Usually, an itchy and small lesion develops on the face, neck, arms or hands, turning into a black and swollen wound in 1-2 days. Skin anthrax is also called “black boil” because of the appearance of the wound.
In addition to the lesions, pain, headache, weakness, fatigue, vomiting and fever have also been observed in some patients. Cutaneous anthrax can cause swelling of the throat and nearby lymph nodes, and sometimes affects breathing. This type of anthrax disease is usually treatable, but if left untreated, the mortality rate is about 20 percent.
Anthrax of the Digestive Tract
Digestive tract anthrax is transmitted by eating anthrax meats undercooked or raw. The development of anthrax disease in the digestive tract usually occurs in the intestine, mouth or throat. The disease, which shows signs of food poisoning within 2-5 days after consuming anthrax food; continues with loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhea and nausea. Bacteria in the mouth or throat cause difficulty swallowing and sore throat by forming a white-coated wound. Since it can be difficult to diagnose at an early stage, anthrax of the digestive tract can become fatal.
The most dangerous type of anthrax is lung anthrax. Lung anthrax, transmitted by inhalation of the bacterium after its passage into the air, gives symptoms within 2-5 days. The disease, which progresses rapidly enough to cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, meningitis and then coma, becomes fatal if left untreated. The most dangerous type of lung anthrax, even if treated with severe methods, resulted in a death rate of 55 percent.
How Is Anthrax Transmitted?
Anthrax disease, which can also be transmitted directly or indirectly to humans from infected animals, is divided into four groups according to the sources of transmission: agricultural, industrial, laboratory and biological weapons. In agricultural anthrax, bacteria are transmitted to humans by direct contact with the animal. This is the most common transmission route in Turkey. Industrial anthrax is transmitted during industrial processing of hair, wool, skin and bones of animals carrying bacterial spores. Although laboratory-acquired anthrax is rarely seen, it can lead to serious outbreaks. The easy production of anthrax bacteria in laboratory or artificial conditions can lead to its use as a biological weapon; this is also a way of transmission.
Anthrax is also an occupational disease. Veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, livestock keepers, butchers, laboratory workers, emergency and medical personnel, postal and packaging workers are in the risk group for anthrax disease.
Is Anthrax Transmitted from Person to Person?
Although anthrax is in the category of infectious diseases, it is not transmitted from person to person or from animal to animal. Anthrax disease, which is not contagious by coughing, sneezing, temporary contact, such as the flu or the common cold, can only be transmitted as a result of touching the wounds of a person suffering from anthrax.
At How Many Degrees does the Anthrax Bacterium Die?
The anthrax bacterium, which is also used as a biological weapon due to its durability, multiplies in suitable environments and can continue to live for years by forming a protective sheath. Anthrax bacteria, which are highly resistant to cold, heat, dryness, chemical disinfectants, high and low pH, ultraviolet rays, must be exposed to a very high temperature to be killed. For example, during the processing of animal skins, only products that have been kept at 95°C for 24 hours can be free of anthrax bacteria. It should also be taken into account that there is a possibility that this purification will not destroy all bacteria.
Is Anthrax Transmitted from Milk?
Anthrax bacteria also pass into the milk of animals. In the last period of the disease, the animal's blood may also enter the milk. In these cases, anthrax disease is not transmitted with milk due to the fact that it is not possible to milk the animal. Milk and dairy products that have been boiled and pasteurized can be used safely because they do not have infectious properties.
Different anthrax vaccines are used for animals and humans. The vaccine used in animals contains live bacteria with reduced disease characteristics, while the vaccine given to humans does not contain any bacteria and this vaccine does not cause anthrax disease.
Since anthrax vaccination is not a general practice, it is performed only when necessary. The vaccine is applied to scientists working with the bacterium bacillus anthracis between the ages of 18 and 65, those who have come into contact with infected animals, and military personnel designated by the Ministry of Defense.
In cases where the risk of being affected by anthrax is detected, anthrax vaccination can be administered. 1 and 6 months after the first dose, the vaccine is repeated 2 more times. But in order for immunity to persist, 6. after the month 12 and 18. it is recommended to apply 2 more doses per month and then apply reinforcement doses annually.
Individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 who have been infected with anthrax can also be vaccinated after infection. In this case, the vaccine is administered in 3 doses within a month after infection. In the continuation of the treatment, a 60-day course of antibiotics is applied. Side effects may occur after vaccination in those who are severely allergic, pregnant women, those who are sensitive to allergies in the anthrax vaccine, and people who have suffered severe illness. People in these groups should definitely consult a doctor before vaccination.
In order for anthrax treatment to give a successful result, people who show signs of the disease should contact a health facility as soon as possible. For the treatment of anthrax, penicillin or alternative antibiotics are used in the form of a cure.
Antitoxin therapy is another method preferred by doctors in the treatment of anthrax, but this method of treatment is currently considered experimental. In addition, antitoxin therapy is applied only at the early stage of anthrax disease to eliminate the toxins that the bacterium activates, and not the bacterium itself.
With cutaneous anthrax, surgical intervention is not recommended, as sepsis may occur with inflammation of the wound. Ointments with antibiotics are also not used in this case, as they do not act. Only dressings are applied to the lesions, and then they are covered with gauze. The medical personnel who will perform the application should be following all the necessary prevention methods.