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Anthrax: A killer bacterium

A killer bacterium The spores that cause anthrax -- Bacillus anthracis -- occur widely in soil, and the skin form of the infection used to be common, especially among livestock and people who work with the animals. It can be treated with antibiotics.But once the spores are inhaled and settle in the lungs, they cause a hard-to-diagnose infection that is almost impossible to cure -- and nearly always fatal -- once symptoms start. Experts estimate that 8,000 to 10,000 spores taken into the lungs can cause inhaled anthrax. The infection is not contagious. Infection with the skin form of the disease can result from substantially fewer spores. On the skin, the ailment starts after three to five days with a small, painless blister that is red around the edges. A day or two later, this becomes an open sore that is especially recognizable because it is black. Eventually, this dries up and leaves a black scab, which falls off after a week or two. The usual treatment is a common antibiotic, such as penicillin, doxycycline or Cipro, which are extremely effective. Left untreated, perhaps 5% of skin cases progress to a dangerous bloodstream infection, which also is almost always fatal, according to medical experts.Source: Associated Press


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