Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a microbe called Bacillus anthracis that lives in the soil. Anthrax became more widely known in 2001 when anthrax was used as a biological weapon.
Transmission to humans can occur by inhalation of anthrax spores or eating the flesh of anthrax diseased animals. Until now there is no medical evidence that shows that the bacteria that cause anthrax can spread between humans. But a healthy person has the possibility of contracting it if he has a wound on the skin and is in direct contact with an existing wound on the skin of an anthrax sufferer.
In addition, an increased risk of anthrax can also occur if you:
- Work researching anthrax in the laboratory
- Work with veterinarians
- Dealing with animals from areas with a high risk of anthrax
- Work in places with a lot of interactions with animals such as in the circus
- Serve in areas at risk of anthrax
When the body is exposed to anthrax, one characteristic that is easily recognized is that the skin will look like it has been bitten by an insect. Then, this will cause the skin to blister and cause skin ulcers (eczema) with a black central point. Although this does not cause pain, symptoms usually develop within 1-5 days of exposure.
Meanwhile, symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax (digestive system) usually develop within a week after exposure. Symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling in the neck
- Bloody diarrhea
- Severe stomach pain
Meanwhile, for people who are exposed to anthrax through the respiratory system, symptoms usually appear within a week. Commonly referred to as inhalation anthrax, this anthrax is the deadliest type. The initial symptoms of this type of anthrax resemble the symptoms of flu, such as fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Then discomfort arises in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea, coughing up blood, pain when swallowing, high fever, difficulty breathing, shock, and meningitis occurs.
In diagnosing anthrax, the initial examination is to rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms, such as flu or pneumonia with symptoms similar to inhalation anthrax. After that, further tests can be carried out, such as:
- Blood test
- Skin test
- Stool sample
- Spinal fluid function, which is a procedure that tests a small amount of fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
- Chest radiograph, performed on a patient suspected of having inhaled anthrax
- CT scan
- Endoscopy, is a test using a small tube with a camera to check the esophagus and intestine
If you have anthrax and you have symptoms, your doctor will give you an antibiotic or anthrax vaccine. Anthrax can be treated with antibiotics if it is known in the initial phase. The problem is that many people don’t seek treatment until it’s too late to treat.
Antibiotics that are commonly given as anthrax treatment are ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, and levofloxacin. Anthrax treatment will be effective if done as soon as possible, and often by using a combination of a number of antibiotics.
Meanwhile, inhaled anthrax patients often do not respond well to treatment, because the bacteria have already produced a lot of toxins that cannot be completely eliminated by drugs.
Without treatment, the chance of dying from anthrax increases. The risk of death from cutaneous anthrax is 20% if left untreated. If you have gastrointestinal anthrax, the chance of death is 25-60% percent. The risk of death from inhalation anthrax is around 75%.
Some factors that can affect the success rate of treatment are:
- The area of the body that is infected
- Patient age
- General health conditions of sufferers
Prevention of Anthrax
To prevent contracting anthrax, you are advised to consume cooked meat and avoid contact with infected animals. Anthrax can also be prevented by administering an anthrax vaccine.
However, this vaccine is not intended for the public, and is not recommended for children and the elderly. Until now, the vaccine was only recommended for members of the military, scientists who research anthrax, and people in professions who are at high risk of developing the disease.