Most people associate anthrax with bioterrorism.
Per the CDC, anthrax bacteria is one of the most common mediums in terrorism. This is because microscopic anthrax spores are produced in a lab and put into food, water, sprays, and powders.
However, that’s not the only information about anthrax. The bacteria naturally occurs in soil all over the world. Wildlife and livestock can pick up the bacteria as they breathe and graze in grasslands. This includes cattle, pigs, goats, and deer. Humans can contract the disease as well. This can happen from absorption through a cut in the skin when slaughtering animals, or from eating infected meat.
Additionally, there’s a lot we don’t know about the risks posed by anthrax in nature. Specifically, how many animal and human cases there is each year.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of human cases dropped from 100,000 a year down to 2,000 in the 1980s. The bacteria is in the soil of every continent as well as multiple islands, such as Haiti and parts of the Philippines and Indonesia.
Public health researchers believe there are more cases out there in both people and animals. This is partly because symptoms can mimic the flu.
Based on recent research, 1.1 billion livestock live in anthrax-infected areas. 1.83 billion humans live in those areas — and approximately 63 million livestock keepers are at high risk.
They found that the countries with the highest number of people at risk are China, India, South America and Bangladesh. and
Other regions, such as North America, see cases as well. However, animals there are routinely receive the vaccine..Also, food safety measures keep anthrax-infected meat from being eaten.
How Anthrax Affects People and Animals
Unless antibiotics are administered, a non-vaccinated animal will quickly die from anthrax infection.
If infected, people can experience a variety of symptoms. In cases where the bacteria gets under people’s skin, symptoms include fever, fatigue, and black sores on the skin. About 20 percent of people who get this type of anthrax die due to not receiving antibiotics.
Eating tainted and undercooked meat causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This type of anthrax has higher fatality rates: more than half of people die with no treatment. Forty percent die even after taking antibiotics.
Inhalation anthrax is the deadliest of all. It’s the kind that terrorists seek to spread. But it also occurs in nature. Without treatment, 85 to 90 percent of people die. Forty-five percent die after treatment.
There is a vaccine for people, but only first responders to potential terror attacks and to laboratory technicians who work with the bacteria closely receive the vaccination.