Anthrax is a bacterial disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. It primarily affects herbivorous mammals, although other mammals and some birds have been known to contract it. Humans generally acquire the disease from infected animals or as a result of occupational exposure to contaminated animal products.
Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated herbivorous mammals that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing. Ingestion is thought to be the most common route by which herbivores contract anthrax. Carnivores living in the same environment may become infected by consuming infected animals. Diseased animals can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact (e.g., inoculation of infected blood to broken skin) or by consumption of a diseased animal's flesh.
There are three types of anthrax in humans: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary. The vast majority of cases are cutaneous, caused by anthrax spores infecting a cut or abrasion. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes.
The body of an animal that had active anthrax at the time of death can also be a source of anthrax sporesEffective decontamination of articles can be accomplished by boiling them in water for 30 minutes or longer. Chlorine bleach is ineffective in destroying spores and vegetative cells on surfaces, though formaldehyde is effective. Burning clothing is very effective in destroying spores. After decontamination, there is no need to immunise treat, or isolate contacts of persons ill with anthrax unless they were also exposed to the same source of infection and can be treated with antibiotics.