Anthrax bacteria. © Science Photo Library

Anthrax is a rare disease caused by bacteria that produce spores and can be transmitted from animals to humans. People contract the disease from the spores, which can survive in the environment for decades. 

Anthrax disease can present in different forms including 

  • Skin anthrax, which is the most common and least severe form (accounting for >95% of cases)
  • lung anthrax, which has a 75% death rate
  • gastrointestinal anthrax, which may progress to blood infection and death; and 
  • injectional anthrax, which is associated with injection drug use.

Depending on the disease form, symptoms can appear between 1 to 60 days after infection. Antibiotic treatment is effective if given at an early stage. Vaccination against anthrax is only recommended for at risk individuals, such as those working in anthrax-endemic areas who may be at high risk for direct contact with infected animals and animal products. Control measures include the correct disposal of dead animals.