Anthrax

Anthrax is a serious, potentially deadly infection caused by a bacteria that is naturally found in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals. 

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Anthrax is caused by a bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. It is not contagious (i.e., cannot be passed on from one person to another) but is generally acquired from infected animals or contaminated animal products through:

• Skin to skin contact (through a cut or sore).
• Eating of undercooked meat of an infected animal.
• Inhalation of the bacteria.

The presence of Anthrax varies depending on the type of infection. 

For cutaneous infection (skin):
• A raised, itchy bump resembling an insect bite that quickly develops into a painless sore with a black center;
• Swelling in the sore and nearby lymph nodes.

For gastrointestinal (stomach and intestine) infection:
• Nausea;
• Vomiting;
• Abdominal pain;
• Headache;
• Loss of appetite;
• Fever;
• Bloody diarrhea in the later stages of the disease;
• Sore throat and difficulty swallowing;
• Swollen neck.

For inhalational (lungs) infection:
• High fever;
• Shortness of breath;
• Mild chest discomfort;
• Vomiting of blood;
• Coughing up blood.

Anthrax is diagnosed by looking for the bacteria in bodily fluids taken from the suspected site of infection. The cutaneous (skin) type is usually managed using oral antibiotics, while the other two types, which are often more serious, are managed using intravenous antibiotics and medications used to fight the toxins made by the bacteria. Similar to treating other infections, supportive care is necessary and includes having a healthy diet, adequate fluid intake or rehydration (especially if the patient has loose stools or is vomiting), and enough rest.

To help reduce the risk of infection, one must:
• Practice proper hand hygiene;
• Avoid coming into contact with infected animals;
• Avoid eating meat from animals that were sick when slaughtered;
• Be educated about Anthrax and personal cleanliness, especially if one might handle potentially contaminated objects.

Since anthrax is most commonly seen in sick animals, animal handlers should also:
• Wear personal protective equipment;
• Report suspected cases of anthrax in animals to government authorities (e.g., Provincial Health Office, Center for Health Development, Epidemiology Bureau);
• Handle sick or dead animals with caution.

There is already a vaccine against anthrax for humans, but it is not yet available in the Philippines. Instead, vaccination of animals against anthrax is strongly recommended.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024