Anthrax is an infection caused by bacteria which form protective spores to survive in extreme conditions, enabling it to survive for
long periods of time. When we come into contact with these spores an infection may result, but not always. Anthrax can be quitedifficult to contract. There are three distinct types of anthrax infection:
This is the most common infection caused by skin contact, where the spores enter any cuts or tiny abrasions in the skin. A raised
itchy area develops, with a black scab forming in the centre. This has been the most common infection from the current Americanincidents.
This is where a number of spores have been inhaled and pneumonia results two to three days after exposure. Following all the
incidents in America, only one elderly person has died from this form of anthrax - probably because it was not diagnosed quicklyenough, as it is so rarely seen.
This is an extremely rare infection where large numbers of organisms/spores have been ingested in contaminated food, resulting in
These infections are easily treated with common antibiotics such as penicillin, ciprofloxacin (Cipro, as the media calls it) or
It is important, however, that treatment is administered early on in the infective process and, therefore, anybody who is concerned
hould see their GP as soon as possible.
Vaccines do exist and it has been reported that the UK government have stockpiles for use if needed. However, they will avoid mass
vaccination unless absolutely necessary, due to the potential risks, estimated at a one in a million chance of death and a one in300,000 chance of serious side effects.
The best action is one of containment. If anybody is suspicious of a package or has opened something containing a suspicious
substance it should be handled with extreme care, the package should be gently resealed as best as possible, not moved away fromthe area and gently placed into a further sealable container, such as a plastic bag. The Police should then be immediately informedand they will assume control of the situation and take the necessary appropriate actions. In the meantime it would be prudent forpersonnel to close all windows and calmly leave the immediate area, which should then be sealed off.
If present, local and central air conditioning/ventilation systems should also be isolated as a precaution, as it is likely that the wholebuilding will be evacuated by the Police.
In 1998 a panel of experts on bioterrorism concluded the following on the risk of being killed:-Car accident 1: 5,000Murdered 1: 12,000
Terrorist bomb 1: 10s of millions Bioterrorism 1: 100s of millions
In 2001, 22 cases of cutaneous anthrax occurred, spread through the postal service. This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Elementus. Elementus Ltd Independent health, safety and environmental consultancy t 0844 8007705 e firstname.lastname@example.org w elementus.com
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