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Exposure

In humans, three types of anthrax infections can occur, based on the route of exposure: cutaneous (skin exposure), inhalational (inhalation exposure), and gastrointestinal (ingestion exposure). Symptoms are dependent on the route of exposure. Those most often associated with skin infections are itching, boils, and formation of a black scab. Symptoms most often associated with inhalation infections are fever, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms most often associated with ingestion infections are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Additional information about anthrax can be found in the following resources:

  • Emergency Preparedness and Response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Provides step by step guidance on the preparedness actions to take that will help people deal with disasters of all sorts most effectively. An A-Z Index of All Agents, Diseases & Other Threats includes:
    • Anthrax. Contains basic information about the disease, questions & answers about worker safety, specific recommendations for mail handlers, fact sheets and additional links to diagnosis/evaluation, infection control, surveillance & investigation, and treatment.
  • Anthrax: Frequently Asked Questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Answers questions about how anthrax is transmitted, where is it found, who should get vaccinated, and is there treatment for anthrax.
Workers Exposed Through Criminal/Terrorist Acts

Workers whose jobs would not ordinarily involve anthrax exposure could be exposed through acts of terrorism. Conventional thinking is that terrorists are likely to target places where large populations may be found such as large buildings, sporting events, or mass transit systems. Recent events have shown that there is a wider range of physical locations that could be targeted and this expands the range of employees who could be exposed.

Health Care Workers

Health care workers in occupational settings such as hospitals, clinics, and medical laboratories may be exposed to anthrax as a result of contact with patients whose skin, clothing, or personal effects are contaminated with anthrax spores, or through contact with contaminated equipment. Anthrax is not a contagious disease, so exposure will not result from contact with an infected patient.

Emergency Response Workers

Emergency responders, including police, firefighters, emergency medical services workers, and others who are responsible for responding to acts of terrorism may be exposed to anthrax.

Animal Handling Occupations

Anthrax is most common in occupations involving animals, animal hides or fibers. Grazing animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and horses are chief animal hosts of anthrax. Occupations susceptible to exposure may include shepherds, farmers, butchers, handlers of imported hides or fibers, weavers, veterinarians, and veterinary pathologists.

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