Anthrax is one of the oldest recorded diseases of animals. It was mentioned by Moses in Exodus 9:9, and by many classical ancient Greek and Roman authors such as Homer, Hipocrates, Ovid, Galen, Virgil, and Pliny. Devastating epidemics of the disease have been recorded by many medieval and modern writers. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it sometimes swept through southern Europe like a dark plague killing much of the human and animal life in its path. Anthrax was the first disease of man and animals in which the causative agent was represented as a specific microorganism. This was discovered by the French biologist Casimir-Joseph Davaine in 1863 and in 1876 by the German bacteriologist Robert Koch, who isolated the organism in a pure culture. In 1881, Louis Pasteur devised a bacterial vaccine which was effective against this infectious disease making it the first to be successful. Almost all animals are able to get anthrax. Most common to contract the disease are cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and mules by grazing on contaminated pastures.
Anthrax, also called splenic fever, malignant pustule, or woolsorters' disease is caused by Bacillus anthracis, an organism that under certain conditions forms highly resistant spores capable of persisting and retaining their virulence in contaminated soil or other material for many years. It is a disease mainly attributed to herbivores. The infection can be acquired by handling wool, hair, hides, bones, or the carcasses of affected animals.
Anthrax in humans occurs as a cutaneous, pulmonary, or intestinal infection. It is sometimes transmitted to humans by spore-contaminated brushes or by wearing apparel such as furs and some leather goods. It usually results from handling infected material, lesions occurring mostly on the hands, arms, or neck. From this, blood poisoning can occur and the lungs and plurea can be damaged if exposed to inhaled anthrax spores. The intestinal form of the disease, which sometimes follows the consumption of contaminated meat is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. In small cases there is excitement and a rise in body temperature followed by depression, spasms, respiratory or cardiac distress, trembling, staggering, convulsions, and death. Sometimes blood is discharged from the body's openings and parts of the body may also swell up. In most acute and peracute forms it usually results in death within a day or two. A subacute form can lead to death in three to five days or sometimes one may fully recover after several days.
Chronic anthrax occurs mostly in swine and dogs. Outbreaks in swine, cats, dogs, and wild animals held in captivity generally result from consumption of contaminated food. It is characterized by swelling of the throat, difficult breathing, and a blood-stained frothy discharge from the mouth. Affected animals sometimes can die from suffocation.
Prophylactic vaccination is commonly used in treating livestock. If an outbreak does occur, strict quarantine measures must be taken. The disposal of diseased carcasses by burning, fly control, and good sanitation are essential in controlling the disease. In order to save a human from anthrax it must be diagnosed very early and treated immediately. There is anthrax serum, arsenicals, and antibiotics available which when used can be very effective. There is a hazard of infection with industrial workers but it can be reduced by sterilization of potentially contaminated material before