Anthrax Home > Anthrax Transmission

Anthrax transmission occurs in one of two ways: from animals, or as a result of bioterrorism. Anthrax transmission from animals may occur when a person handles products from an infected animal, or breathes in anthrax spores from infected animal products, such as wool. In the case of bioterrorism, anthrax transmission can occur when someone puts a powder containing anthrax into letters, or into the air via heating or air conditioning systems.

Anthrax Transmission: An Overview

Anthrax is not known to spread from one person to another. Instead, anthrax transmission occurs in one of two ways:
  • From animals
  • From bioterrorism.
Anthrax Transmission From Animals
Anthrax spores can live in the soil for many years. Wild or domestic animals (such as cattle, sheep, or antelopes) can contract anthrax through this soil and become infected. Humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from an infected animal, or by breathing in anthrax spores from infected animal products (such as wool). People can also become infected with gastrointestinal anthrax by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.
Anthrax Transmission as a Result of Bioterrorism
Anthrax can also be used as a weapon. This happened in the United States in 2001. Anthrax was deliberately spread through the postal system by sending letters with powder containing anthrax. This caused 22 cases of anthrax infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify agents with recognized bioterrorism potential into three priority areas (A, B, and C). Anthrax is classified as a Category A agent.
Category A agents are those that:
  • May spread across a large area, or require public awareness
  • Pose the greatest possible threat for a bad effect on public health
  • Require a great deal of planning to protect the public's health.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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