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Anthrax: A Biological Weapon

Biological warfare has been around since the 19th century. It can include any organism or toxin found in nature to kill or injure people. Many nations are seeking ways to acquire biological weapons to use against other nations and there have been many concerns of terrorist groups having the technology to use them. In fact, as of the 1980s, some terrorist organizations may have even been traced to possessing bio-weapons. Most bio-weapons can spread through the air, with explosives, food and water, or absorbed through the skin. Some of the weapons have been eradicated while others still exist, but are dormant.

Anthrax is one biological weapon that can be used against the world, proving to be very dangerous when put in the wrong hands. What is Anthrax? Anthrax, also known by its scientific name of Bacillus anthracis, is an infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria. It can produce inactive spores that can live for a long time in the environment, including soil and some animals in the world. Anthrax works when spores get into the body of an animal or human, and then turn into active growing cells. The four types of anthrax are cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalation, and injection.

Cutaneous anthrax or skin anthrax is the most common form of anthrax found. It is developed when a break in the skin comes into direct contact with anthrax spores. This includes a cut or some sort of abrasion. The itchy bump, resembling an insect bite, caused by this form of anthrax transmutes into a blister and then a black sore. Symptoms caused by cutaneous anthrax are headaches, muscle aches, fever, and vomiting. It must be treated quickly to prevent any more severity and the appropriate medical evaluation is important. About 20 percent of untreated cases result in death but is rare with the appropriate treatment.

Gastrointestinal anthrax is caught by eating meat from an infected animal. It is distinguished by an acute inflammation of the intestines. Gastrointestinal anthrax causes symptoms parallel to food poisoning, but can worsen into severe abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Appropriate medical attention is important. This type of anthrax results in death 25-60 percent of the time. The deadliest type of anthrax is inhalation or pulmonary anthrax. Even though it is the rarest, inhalation anthrax cause the most concern to people diagnosed with it.

It is caused when a person directly breathes in a large amount of anthrax spores in the air or from infected animal products. The primary symptoms include those similar to a common cold. However, it alters into severe breathing issues and shock. Appropriate medical evaluation and treatment is important when diagnosed. Inhalation anthrax results in death most of the time because it is very fatal. A recently discovered type of anthrax is called injection anthrax. In 2010, an outbreak occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. The symptoms of this form of anthrax did not resemble the three original anthrax types.

Doctors found the patients, who had all used heroin before, had a swelling of deep layers of the skin. They identified this as a new form of anthrax called injection anthrax. Although further research found no traces of spores on the heroin itself, health officials still believe that the patients infected themselves by injecting the spores into their bodies. Anthrax is mostly located in arid agricultural regions, such as Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, central and southwestern Asia, southern and eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.

Anthrax can occur in agricultural animals or grazing animals, such as cows and deer. It is common in third-world countries, or countries that do not have the expertise to develop vaccinations or health programs to keep livestock healthy. It occurs rarely in the Unites States because it is required to keep livestock vaccinated yearly in certain areas. History Figure 1: Timeline of the history of anthrax The first known traces of anthrax were found to originate from Egypt and Mesopotamia in 1250 B. C. Many scholars think that anthrax was one of the ten plagues that affected Egypt.

Along with these early civilizations, the ancient Greeks and Romans were also found to be familiar with the use of anthrax, showing it in illustrations or other works of art at that time. Theories even suggest anthrax may have played a part in the fall of Rome, one of the most successful civilizations of the ancient world. Anthrax vaccines were only recently discovered. In 1881, scientist Louis Pasteur created a vaccine by giving 25 animals two shots a sample vaccine he had fabricated with weakened anthrax bacteria.

After supplying them with both shots of vaccines, Pasteur injected the animals with a live sample of anthrax, while also injecting the live sample to 25 animals that were not vaccinated. All of the vaccinated animals survived, while the infected 25 animals died. In 1937, Max Sterne created the anthrax live spore vaccine for animals, still in use in many countries. Because of the decline of anthrax cases in animals, cases of anthrax in humans also reduced. The 1950s brought a great relief to humans; it was when the first anthrax for humans was created.

This was a time period in which 20,000 to 100,000 cases of human anthrax occurred worldwide annually. The vaccine was tested on a group of goat hair mill workers. The volunteers were either given a vaccine or a shot that did not have a vaccine in it. They were tracked for two years. The study identified that the vaccine was 92. 5% effective against the cutaneous anthrax. After the discovery, workers in goat hair mills around the United States were given the new vaccine. About twenty years later, the vaccine was replaced by a new version, the same vaccine we use today.

Affects on Animals and Humans Animals, domestic and wild, can get infected by anthrax spores by breathing or ingesting them in from tainted soil, plants, or water. These animals include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, etc. In areas that have been known to be contaminated with anthrax in the past are required to get regular vaccination annually to prevent sudden outbreaks. Humans can also get infected by breathing in large numbers of spores in the air, although that is very rare. In most cases, people become infected when spores are ingested into the body.

After the spores get into the body and into the lungs, the spores become active and start to grow and multiply. Once this happens, they begin to release toxins that spread to the rest of the body, causing severe illness. People who become ill from anthrax are revealed to the bacteria while working with infected animals or animal products or by eating raw meat from infected animals. Anthrax is not a contagious disease. Therefore, you cannot catch it directly from another person unless, in some rare cases, a person diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax has skin wounds that come into contact with another.

With the correct treatment and medical evaluation, the chances of fatality from anthrax can be reduced. Antibiotics can assist in treating anthrax. In 1944, Penicillin was first used to treat anthrax and became the top choice to treat anthrax, replacing the old remedies. It is important to realize that medication that is prescribed by doctors will only help in treating anthrax spores. Over-the-counter antibiotics will provide little to no effect against the disease. Vaccines are given out to people only if there are massive outspreads.

They will also be given to people who may come into contact with anthrax in their vocations. It is not recommended or given out without an outbreak. Famous Cases of Anthrax in People In 2006, a drum-maker from New York City was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax. He got sick after he brought goat skins from Africa to use to make his drums. He had no protection while handling the skins. A few days later, he became extremely ill and began having difficulties with breathing. Five days after being hospitalized, the man was diagnosed.

Health officials concluded that he had been exposed to the spores after he scraped the hair off the goat skins and breathed them in. It was the first time that an instance of natural anthrax was reported the United States. In 2009, a similar incident, in which a Connecticut woman was diagnosed with gastrointestinal anthrax, occurred. She was involved in event in which she used drums before she became indisposed. The drums were tested for spores and two of the animal skin drums were found with spores on them, as well as in the room in which the event was held and other rooms in the same building.

Uses in Biological Warfare In the 1800s, scientists discovered new way to multiply and produce large amounts of particular germs. This discovery led to the first deliberate use of anthrax, during World War I. The German militia used anthrax to infect the livestock and fodder to members of the Allied Nations. In 1932, Japan began to produce amounts of anthrax to use as weapons. During this time, the Japanese assailed more than ten cities in China by spraying anthrax and other weapons by the use of aircrafts.

Ten years later, the United States began conducting a bioweapons program, testing anthrax ate sites in Mississippi and Utah. At least 5,000 bombs were filled with anthrax to prepare as a counter against possible attacks against the Germans. Great Britain conducted a similar experiment in which bombs were released on 80 sheep, resulting in the death of all of them. An important finding from the experiment was how long anthrax stayed in an environment after it is set free. The island, on which the experiment was conducted remained, unoccupiable until 1986 when Great Britain decided to eradicate the spores.

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