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What causes anthrax?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Coming into contact with infected livestock usually causes humans to contract anthrax. The Bacillus anthracis bacteria usually enter through an opening in the skin, such as a cut or scrape. Anthrax spores can also be inhaled from infected animals and animal products like wool and hides during processing at tanneries, mills, or slaughterhouses; this is considered the most dangerous way to contract anthrax. The disease may take as long as two months to develop after exposure. Another way anthrax is contracted is by eating meat from infected animals, which has not been thoroughly cooked. In the US, livestock are usually vaccinated against anthrax, so it's extremely rare to contract the disease from meat. It's important to note also that anthrax is not contagious, meaning a person cannot contract the disease from someone who has it. The only exception to this is if users of intravenous illicit drugs share a needle, in which case anthrax can be passed from person to person by injection; cases of this have been reported in Europe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.