Anthrax Information Page

Anthrax Information Page

Because of the concerns over anthrax in the United States, here is a list of authoritative links that can help separate fact from fiction.  

What is anthrax?
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. 

We found a lot of useful information posted at: Centers for Disease Control
  How do you get anthrax?
There are three forms:
…cutaneous (skin) through contact
…ingested, intestinal 

The concern in America right now is if someone, such as terrorists, want to attack the population with anthrax, how would they do it.  Through items in the mail?  Through spraying from the air such as with cropdusting airplanes?  Other contamination of water or food supply?

What are the symptoms of anthrax?
They vary depending on how someone came into contact with it, but usually appear within 7 days.

Cutaneous (skin contact)
Begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite.
Within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter.  The scab that typically forms over the lesion can be black as coal, hence the name anthrax – Greek for coal.
Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.

Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. 
After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock.

Intestinal (ingested) 
Characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal 
tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever 
are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe 
Is anthrax contagious?  Can one person with anthrax give it to another person?
The CDC says it’s unlikely.
Was anthrax created by terrorists?  Does it occur in nature?
There are said to be supplies of anthrax that might be used by terrorists, but anthrax does exist among some animals and in some agricultural areas.
How is anthrax diagnosed?
Through a blood test for the presence of the bacterium that causes it. 
What are the treatments for anthrax?
Antibiotics, preferably as quickly as possible.
Is anthrax always fatal?
Fatality depends on the type of anthrax contracted and how quickly treatment is started.  
What constitutes a “suspicious parcel?”
Some typical characteristics Postal Inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

…Have any powdery substance on the outside. 

…Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you. 

…Have excessive postage, handwritten or poorly typed address, incorrect titles or titles with no name, or misspellings of common words.

…Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated. 

…Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified as legitimate. 

…Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped. 

…Have an unusual amount of tape. 

…Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as “Personal” or “Confidential.” 

…Have strange odors or stain.
More information can be found at: U.S. Postal Service
What Should I do if I Receive an Anthrax Threat by Mail?
…Do not handle the mail piece or package suspected of contamination.

…Notify your supervisor, who will immediately contact the Inspection Service, local police, safety office or designated person.

…Make sure that damaged or suspicious packages are isolated and the immediate area cordoned off.

…Ensure that all persons who have touched the mail piece wash their hands with soap and water.

…The Inspectors will collect the mail, assess the threat situation and coordinate with the FBI.

…Designated officials will notify local, county, and state health departments.

…Designated officials will notify the state emergency manager.

…List all persons who have touched the letter and/or envelope. Include contact information. Provide the list to the Inspection Service.

…Place all items worn when in contact with the suspected mail piece in plastic bags and keep them wherever you change your clothes and have them available for law enforcement agents.

…As soon as practical, shower with soap and water.

…If prescribed medication by medical personnel, take it until otherwise instructed or it runs out.

…Notify the Center for Disease Control Emergency Response at 770-488-7100 for answers to any questions.

More information can be found at: U.S. Postal Service

updated 01/09/13