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2 of 3 forms of anthrax found in United States

As cases of anthrax have spread across the United States, 13 people in New York, Nevada, Washington D.C. and Florida have come into contact with or been diagnosed with the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, two of the three forms of the disease have shown up in the United States, resulting in the death of a man in Florida. The three forms of the anthrax infection are cutaneous (skin), inhalation and gastrointestinal.

Anthrax, said the CDC, can be transmitted by handling infected animals or inhaling anthrax spores from a contaminated animal. The disease can also spread from eating undercooked meat from infected animals, but it is rare to find infected animals in the United States.

For cutaneous anthrax, a large boil-like sore appears on the skin and turns into a black scab. If untreated, it will infect the bloodstream and lymph nodes. A person infected by inhalation anthrax will have flu-like symptoms and as the diseases progresses, it may cause victims to stop breathing. Patients with the gastrointestinal form of the disease will develop a fever, have stomach pain and blood in their vomit.

The CDC said the symptoms, which usually appear within seven days, vary and depend on how the disease was contracted.

Dr. Lorry Rubin, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Schneider Children’s Hospital in Glen Oaks, said the gastrointestinal form of the disease was very rare and the only type not to have been contracted in the United States. It is one of the 18 hospitals in the North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System throughout Queens and Long Island.

He said the skin version of the disease is the least serious of the three and it is extremely unusual that a person who contracts this type of anthrax will die.

The inhalation anthrax, Rubin said, “comes on like gangbusters and can cause a total body shut down.”

The inhalation form of the disease needs to be treated in the early stages when the victim begins to show signs of having anthrax, Rubin said. The longer a person waits for treatment with antibiotics, he said, the higher mortality rate.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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