International travel and health

Anthrax

Cause

Bacillus anthracis bacteria.

Transmission

Anthrax is primarily a disease of animals. Cutaneous infection, the most frequent clinical form of anthrax, occurs through contact with products from infected animals (mainly cattle, goats, sheep), such as leather or woollen goods, or through contact with soil containing anthrax spores.

Nature of the disease

A disease of herbivorous animals that occasionally causes acute infection in humans, usually involving the skin, as a result of contact with contaminated tissues or products from infected animals or with anthrax spores in soil. Untreated infections may spread to regional lymph nodes and to the bloodstream, and may be fatal.

Geographical distribution

Sporadic cases occur in animals worldwide; there are occasional outbreaks in Africa and central Asia.

Risk for travellers

Very low for most travellers.

Prophylaxis

None. (A vaccine is available for people at high risk because of occupational exposure to B. anthracis; it is not commercially available in most countries.)

Precautions

Avoid direct contact with soil and with products of animal origin, such as souvenirs made from animal skins.

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