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The germ warfare agent anthrax is a bacterium that if inhaled can kill a person in a matter of days It sounds like science fiction like something a mad scientist developed in a lab in hopes of taking over the world In reality is an ancient disease of live stock and humans known since Biblical times It just never made so many headlines before Anthrax is an infectious disease known as Bacillus Anthracis The bacterium can survive for centuries in a spore form Their inside coating of armor allows the bacteria to exist in the soil or float about in the air until it finds a host to infect Symptoms of the disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted but symptoms usually occur within seven days Usually when a person becomes infected cutaneously the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin such as when handling contaminated wool hides leather or hair products especially goat hair of the infected animal A skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within one to two days it develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer usually one to three centimeters in diameter with a black necrotic dying area in the center of the ulcer Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell About twenty percent of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death wwwcdcgov Deaths are rare due to antimicrobial therapy When anthrax is contracted by inhalation the initial symptoms resemble a common cold After several days the symptoms may progress to a severe breathing problems and shock The inhalation of anthrax spores usually results in death one to two days after on set of acute symptoms The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract Initial signs of nausea loss of appetite
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