Anthrax is a disease that most commonly occurs in wild and domestic animals (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other plant-eating animals). However, a person may develop the condition if he or she is exposed to infected animals, tissue from infected animals, or anthrax spores used as a bioterrorist weapon.
The cause of anthrax is Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that lives in soil. Bacillus anthracis is different from many other bacteria because it forms spores. In this form, it can lie dormant, but may come to life under the right conditions. Bacillus anthracis can cause an anthrax infection in several areas:
- On the skin (known as cutaneous anthrax)
- In the lungs (known as inhalation or pulmonary anthrax)
- Within the intestines (known as gastrointestinal anthrax).
Each type has its own symptoms, fatality rate, and treatment protocol.
(For more information, click Anthrax. This article gives a more detailed description of how the disease is transmitted, who is affected by it, and how it is treated.)