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Bacillus anthracis has been responsible for pandemics in humans and animals for centuries in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. This spore-forming bacterium was most likely transported to the Mississippi River Delta during the French settlement by cargo ships from the Nile valley.1 Outbreaks are most commonly recognized in livestock ,although other domestic animals and wildlife, especially deer, may be involved.2,3 Farmers, butchers, veterinarians and persons working with wool, mohair, hides or bones have traditionally had the greatest potential for becoming infected.2 The three manifestations of anthrax are cutaneous (from direct contact with infected materials), respiratory (from inhalation of spores), and intestinal (from eating infected meat). In 1980, less than six cases were being reported in the US annually and nearly all (95-98%) of these were nonfatal cutaneous anthrax infections.

History of Anthrax in Florida

The first recorded outbreak of anthrax in Florida occurred in a dairy herd near Miami in 1927 and 1928.4 In 1935, anthrax was again diagnosed in a small group of cattle in north Florida, near Quincy, that had been imported from Kansas City, Missouri. In both instances the disease died out and did not threaten the cattle industry. No cattle or human cases were reported until 1951, when a cowboy working on a Broward County ranch bordering the Everglades suffered a minor knife wound while skinning a carcass. A rigid quarantine controlling the movement of cattle in a 125 sq. mi. area was imposed and 50,000 animals were given prophylactic treatment. Four other human cases developed during the course of the outbreak. In January of 1974, the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville documented an eye infection of anthrax in a young female recruit that had had recently visited Haiti. Investigation revealed the source of infection to be a goatskin covered drum which carried B. anthracis spores.5

 

Following this case, Florida went twenty-seven years without an additional case of anthrax. In October 2001, however, a journalist and mailroom employee at a Florida media company became infected with inhalational anthrax through contaminated mail. These cases were soon identified as a part of a bioterrorist event, which affected eight other individuals in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. Both Florida cases developed pulmonary disease; one of these patients was treated with ciprofloxacin and recovered, while the other individual died in the hospital.6 These cases led to increased awareness of the potential threat of bioterrorism, as well as new protective measures to reduce these threats.

 

For more information on anthrax, and national precautions against bioterrorism, see the following CDC website - http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/faq/

CDC: Anthrax and Animal Hides

References

1. Williams, NF. Anthrax. JAVMA. 1932;81;9-25

2. Rees, HB and Smith, MA. Anthrax.. In Diagnostic Procedures for Bacterial, Mycotic and Parasitic Infections. Balows, A and Hausler, WJ, (eds) Am. Pub. Hlth, Assn. 6th edition, 198;215-233.

3. Kellogg, FE, et al. Anthrax epizootic in white-tailed deer. J. Wildl. Dis.1980;6: 226-28.

4. Scatterday, JE, et al. Anthrax in Florida. Vet. Med. 1954;XLIX;188-90.

5. HRS Division of Health. 1974 Annual Report.

6. Jernigan, J, et al. Bioterrorism-Related Inhalational Anthrax: The First 10 Cases Reported in the United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2001;7;933-944.