Scientists on the Anthrax Trail

Dr. Stephen Johnston, professor of internal medicine and biochemistry and director of the Center for Biomedical Inventions of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, believes there are three positive things that will not allow this to turn into a serious problem:

There was only one confirmed case of an anthrax infection. Public health officials are aware of the problem, and hospitals are looking for the signs and symptoms. The strain is sensitive to antibiotics, and therefore is extremely unlikely to harm more people.

Experts also stress that anthrax can't be contracted from exposure to an infected person. The only way to become infected is to be exposed directly to the bacteria, which is usually in its spore form — the form taken to protect itself from the environment.

Normally, the bacteria are found in soil or on animals in spore form. In some countries it is common for people to be exposed to these spores while handling animal hides. The inhalation form of the disease is rare in these areas as well, and not fatal if people receive treatment early.

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