Humans can contract anthrax from the inhalation of aerosolized spores, contact with infected animals (their hides, wool, or other products), or ingestion of contaminated meat. Usually, humans do not contract anthrax directly from the soil.

Illness in humans most commonly occurs following exposure to infected animals or contaminated animal products; such exposures include:

  • Contact with infected tissues of dead animals (eg, butchering, preparing contaminated meat), which generally leads to cutaneous anthrax
  • Consumption of contaminated undercooked meat, which can lead to gastrointestinal anthrax
  • Contact with contaminated hair, wool, or hides (particularly during processing) or contact with products made from them, which can lead to either inhalational or cutaneous anthrax. Animal hair from endemic regions continues to represent an occupational risk for modern woolworkers (see References: Wattiau 2008).

Cases following laboratory exposure have been recognized (see References: Brachman 1980, CDC 2002: Suspected cutaneous anthrax in a laboratory worker—Texas, 2002). Person-to-person transmission of B anthracis has been reported rarely with cutaneous anthrax, but has not been recognized with gastrointestinal or inhalational disease (see References: Weber 2001, Weber 2002).

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