All About Anthrax
"Darn." I tapped the last envelope of the unopened mail upside down on the computer desk and threw it in the garbage.
"What's wrong, mom?" my daughter, Madelyn, asked without looking away from the computer screen.
"Another day and still no anthrax in the mail." I stared morosely out the window. A red Dodge pickup with a Pomeranian in the truck bed drove by.
"Was this something you saw on TV?" She knew I often warned her about life issues from movies or TV. (Don't become a groupie - Almost Famous, don't try this at home- any Burn Notice episode, etc.)
"Well, sort of." Okay, I meant, yes, but I couldn't admit that to her. An episode of Criminal Minds had brought back the whole anthrax uproar of a few years back and how worried everyone was about the mail.
"And why would you want anthrax anyway? Isn't it poisonous or something?" she asked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary happens to me. And so far I think everyone who gets anthrax just takes some antibiotics and they're okay."
Madelyn swiveled the chair to look at me. I marveled again at how much she looked like her father - his thick, dark hair, blue eyes and high cheekbones. "That's not true. We learned about anthrax in school and it can be deadly."
"Well, sure. But that was the inhaled kind."
"Besides," I added. "I want to be on the news - I'd get sympathy. Maybe even money! And imagine being able to talk about it at parties? I mean, how many people get anthrax these days?"
Madelyn sighed, then smiled. "Hey, mom! I saw some white powder on the floor of the laundry room!"
"Really?" My heart beat faster for a moment. "Should I call - oh, stop. It's just detergent."
She reached for a tissue and blew her nose.
"Hey, you feeling okay, you could have anthrax. Doesn't it start out like a cold or flu?"
"I don' think so." She threw the tissue on the floor beside the garbage can.
"Do you have a rash?"
"Mom, please. I don't have anthrax."
"Fine." Well, I meant fine. I didn't really want anyone to get anthrax. I wandered into the kitchen and turned on the little TV in there. Maybe the local news would offer something else to take my mind off anthrax. There was undoubtedly something new to look for - like more lead in something or maybe some chemical compound in celery proving we should eat anything green.
Then I noticed a mound of white powder.
"Hey, Madelyn! I think someone broke into the house and put anthrax on the counter." I moved the coffee mug out of the way for a closer look. "Oh. Never mind. It's the creamer I spilled this morning."
Darn. I really should start cleaning the house.
Anthrax is a serous illiness caused by spore forming bacterium. Usually it only affects livestock and wild game, but people can become infected through direct or indirect contact with sick animals. It usually isn't transmitted from one person to another, but rarely the lesions can be contagious.
Anthrax can enter through a cut in your skin, or if you eat contaminated meat or inhaling the spores. Symptoms range from sores to nausea and vomiting.
It's true taht most anthrax infections can be cured by prompt treatment with antibiotics. Inhaled anthrax is more difficult to treat, however.
As with anything, early diagnosis is key.