Anthrax is a bacterial disease of man and animals caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax bacteria form spores, which are extremely stable in the environment. There are three clinical presentations of the disease: 1) Cutaneous infections, the mildest form, occur when bacterial spores become embedded in the skin. 2) The gastrointestinal form, which is extremely rare, occurs when animals ill with anthrax are consumed as food. 3) Inhalation anthrax occurs when the spores are inhaled. Both the inhalation and gastrointestinal forms have high mortality rates. The reservoir of the bacteria is soil, where the spores can remain viable for years. The spores can be found worldwide and are found naturally in some western states in the U.S. and Canada. Animals, including livestock, can acquire the bacteria from contaminated soil. However, there have been no reported cases of anthrax in Indiana livestock since before 1960.
In 2001, 22 cases of anthrax, including 5 deaths, were attributed to an intentional release of anthrax spores via the U.S. Postal Service. Prior to 2001, the most recent cases of inhalation anthrax in the U.S. occurred in the 1970s in textile workers handling imported wool and goat hair. Over the years, there have been occasional reports of cutaneous anthrax in individuals handling sick animals. There have been no recorded human deaths in Indiana due to anthrax since the 1940s.
Anthrax is a disease of interest because of its high mortality rate, severe illness, and potential for use as a Category A bioterrorism agent.
There were no reported human or animal cases of anthrax in Indiana in 2002.
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