Anthrax Q & A: Risk
is the risk for an individual if he or she is treated with antibiotics
and is exposed to Bacillus anthracis again?
Because inhalation anthrax in humans is so rare, we cannot be certain about the risk of reinfection; therefore, CDC recommends that another course of antibiotic treatment be given promptly if a person is reexposed to Bacillus anthracis. In animal studies of inhalation anthrax, animals given anthrax vaccine and antibiotics after exposure did not develop anthrax when reexposed 4 months after the original exposures, while animals treated with antibiotics alone became ill when reexposed.
spores that cause anthrax multiply outside of a human or animal host?
We do not think so, but we are not certain.
are the odds of my getting anthrax? (What is the average risk of
contracting anthrax in the United States?)
In an average year, the chance that any one individual in the United States will contract anthrax is extremely low—about one case in nearly 300 million. In 2001, even with the intentional release of Bacillus anthracis spores in some environments, the nationwide risk was still extremely low—about 23 cases in nearly 300 million people.
affect pregnancy? Should pregnant women exposed to anthrax take antibiotics?
Anthrax is a serious illness in all humans, including pregnant women. Inhalation anthrax has a high fatality rate, and cutaneous (skin) anthrax also is serious, but less frequently fatal. Because these infections are potentially fatal, it has been recommended that ciprofloxacin, or similar antibiotic drugs, be prescribed for pregnant women believed to have been exposed to anthrax. Clinical studies of the use of the ciprofloxacin in pregnant women have not been conducted, so ciprofloxacin and related drugs are not generally recommended for pregnant women with less serious illnesses.
be transmitted by handling money?
The Department of the Treasury sponsored a study to investigate this risk, and it revealed no evidence that anthrax can be spread by handling money.
is the risk for anthrax in employees of a facility with a positive environmental
The risk would depend on where the environmental sample was, the amount (quantity) of material, and if it was collected in an air sample or on a surface. The risk would also depend on the person’s contact with the type of sample in terms of breathing or touching the sample.
Finding a positive surface or air sample does not mean that employees of a facility are at risk for anthrax. Heavily contaminated surfaces may pose a small risk for cutaneous anthrax, which can be minimized by clean-up. Laboratory test results of environmental surface samples should not be the only criterion for starting, continuing, or stopping preventive antibiotic therapy for inhalation disease.
- Page last updated May 2, 2003
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