Types of Anthrax
There are three major anthrax types: cutaneous, inhalation, and gastrointestinal. Of the three different types, the most common is cutaneous anthrax, which occurs when the bacteria enter a cut or abrasion on the skin. The gastrointestinal form occurs as a result of eating meat contaminated with Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Inhalation anthrax, transmitted by breathing in anthrax bacteria or spores, is usually fatal.
Anthrax is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The three major types of anthrax are:
- Cutaneous (skin) anthrax
- Inhalation anthrax (also known as pulmonary anthrax)
- Gastrointestinal anthrax.
About 95 percent of anthrax infections are cutaneous anthrax. Transmission occurs when Bacillus anthracis enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, which can happen when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather, or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals.
A cutaneous anthrax skin infection begins as a raised, itchy bump that resembles an insect bite, but within one to two days develops into a blister. This blister then turns into a painless ulcer with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center (see Anthrax Pictures). Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell, too.
About 20 percent of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths from this anthrax type are rare when appropriate treatment is received.
Inhalation anthrax is caused by breathing in the anthrax bacteria or spores. Most of the time, this occurs by breathing in spores from infected animal products. It can also occur if anthrax was used as a biological weapon.
Initial anthrax symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may worsen to severe breathing problems and shock. This type of anthrax is usually fatal.