News Release - July 14, 2006
HUMAN SKIN ANTHRAX CASE CONFIRMED IN SASKATCHEWAN
A Saskatchewan man from the Melfort area has contracted a case of skin anthrax. Cutaneous or skin anthrax is the least serious and most common form of the disease. The individual is being treated with antibiotics as an outpatient and is expected to make a full recovery.
This area of the province is experiencing an outbreak of anthrax among livestock - mainly cattle - caused by environmental conditions that favour exposure to spores in the soil.
"This is not a significant public health problem. Skin anthrax is very different than the more serious pulmonary anthrax, which is perhaps what people typically think about when they hear the word 'anthrax'," Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Ross Findlater said. "Anthrax is not transmitted from person to person. In the case of cutaneous anthrax, there is small theoretical risk of infection from direct contact with the lesions on another person's body before antibiotics are started. Cutaneous anthrax responds to antibiotic treatment very well."
Skin anthrax is usually contracted when a person with a break in their skin, such as a cut or abrasion, comes into direct unprotected contact with anthrax spores on a sick or dead animal. The resulting itchy bump appears between one and 12 days later, and then over 24-36 hours develops a blister and then a skin ulcer with a black centre. In most people the lesion resolves in about 6 weeks. Some people also develop headaches, muscle aches, fever and vomiting.
There are three types of anthrax: cutaneous (skin), gastrointestinal and pulmonary. Cutaneous anthrax is the most common form and is associated with agricultural outbreaks of anthrax in North America. Gastrointestinal anthrax is acquired by ingesting uncooked, contaminated food. Pulmonary anthrax is acquired by breathing in large numbers of spores in either occupational settings or as a biological weapon.
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