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War on terror: Anthrax Fact File
Disease Origins
Symptoms and effects
Anthrax dispersal
Biological warfare
Disease Origins
Anthrax is a disease caused by the organism bacillus anthracis. It derives its name from anthrakis, the Greek word for coal, because the cutaneous version of the disease can cause black skin lesions.

  • It is rarely seen in people and mostly affects hoofed animals, which become infected after ingesting the dormant forms of the bacteria - the spores - in soil. The spores can remain dormant in the soil for many years.

  • It is infrequent in western Europe and the US and is more often found in south and central America, south and east Europe, Asia and Africa.

  • Traditionally people most at risk are those who work with animals or in industries processing animal products such as meat and wool.

  • Anthrax is not contagious. The only way to be infected is by being exposed to large numbers of spores.
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