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Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and can be naturally found in the soil in many parts of the world including some areas of the U.S. Outbreaks are most commonly recognized in livestock, although other domestic animals and wildlife may be involved. Farmers, veterinarians and persons in direct contact with potentially infected livestock or their products are at greatest risk for exposure. The four clinical presentations of anthrax are cutaneous or skin infection (from direct contact with infected materials), injection (from injection of heroin or other illegal drugs - never reported in the U.S.), respiratory (from breathing in spores), and intestinal (from eating infected meat). Cutaneous or skin infections are most common, and most people recover rapidly with treatment. The other types of anthrax infections are much more serious but rare.
- ANTHRAX OCCURRENCE IN FLORIDA
- RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
The first recorded outbreak of anthrax in Florida occurred in a dairy herd near Miami in 1927 and 1928.
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 square mile 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 recently visited Haiti. Investigation revealed the source of infection to be a goatskin-covered drum which carried B. anthracis spores. Following this case, Florida went 27 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 incident, 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. These cases led to increased awareness of the potential threat of bioterrorism, as well as new protective measures to reduce these threats.
In 2011, a rare respiratory anthrax infection was identified in a Florida resident who was on a driving tour through the western and Midwestern United States. The patient had pre-existing medical conditions that may have increased his susceptibility to infection. Astute clinicians in a Minnesota hospital rapidly diagnosed respiratory anthrax, promptly instituted appropriate treatment and the patient eventually recovered from the illness. Although the patient had recently been exposed to dust in a state where anthrax is naturally present in the soil, and genetic typing of the patient isolate was consistent with B. anthracis from the U.S., environmental testing was negative and thus it was not possible to conclusively link exposure to a specific location. No anthrax cases have been identified in Florida residents since 2011.
For more information on anthrax, and national precautions against bioterrorism, see the following CDC websites
Jernigan, J, et al. Bioterrorism-Related Inhalational Anthrax: The First 10 Cases Reported in the United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2001;7;933-944.