The 2001 outbreak of anthrax in the USA, as a result of bio-terrorism, raised the profile of this disease. Anthrax is not a contagious disease and travellers are rarely at risk under normal circumstances. Anthrax is a bacterial disease that mainly affects cattle and other domestic animals. Humans can become infected by direct contact with infected animals, or, as in bio-terrorism, by inhalation of airborne spores, as well as through broken skin. Spores are the inactive form of bacteria which become active when environmental conditions are appropriate for reproduction.


Anthrax symptoms generally occur between one to six days after infection.

Cutaneous Anthrax is the most common form of anthrax in humans and is characterized by localised redness which progresses through blistering and then to a black necrotic ulcer.

Pulmonary Anthrax produces flu-like symptoms with fever and headache leading to serious respiratory problems if not treated promptly.


A vaccine is available but the effectiveness is limited and protection is short lived. Vaccination is rarely used outside the military.


Anthrax responds well to treatment with appropriate antibiotics.