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Pediatric  Dental   Health

November 11, 2001

Children And Anthrax
This article was written on 11/11/01 from resources available on that date. Please check the CDC Web site for updated information.

Anthrax is making headlines as an agent of biological warfare, and as a weapon of bioterrorism. The last epidemic of inhalational anthrax occurred in the former Soviet Union, in the industrial city of Sverdlovsk, in 1979. The 66 deaths were due to inhalation of aerosolized spores of anthrax, which were accidentally released from the nearby military microbiology laboratory.

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. B. anthracis is a bacterium which is distributed worldwide. It exists in contaminated soil in the form of extremely resistant spores. Anthrax is most prevalent among cattle, horses, sheep, and goats which have grazed on contaminated land, or which have ingested contaminated feed.

Most cases in industrialized countries are associated with exposure to goat hair imported from countries where anthrax is common among livestock. In the U.S. these bacteria remain endemic in the soil of Texas, Oklahoma, and the lower Mississippi valley.

Anthrax may have been responsible for two of the plagues which afflicted Egypt in 1491 BC. The Greek poet and scientist Virgil gave a detailed description of this disease. Around 1877, John Bell first described woolsorters’ disease in England. This form of inhalational anthrax is linked to processing of infected hides and wool in enclosed factory spaces.