Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis can form dormant endospores that are able to survive in harsh conditions for decades or even centuries. Such spores can be found on all continents, even Antarctica. When spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host, they may become reactivated and multiply rapidly.
Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated herbivorous mammals that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing. Ingestion is thought to be the most common route by which herbivores contract anthrax. Carnivores living in the same environment may become infected by consuming infected animals. Diseased animals can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact or by consumption of a diseased animal's flesh.
Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes. The body of an animal that had active anthrax at the time of death can also be a source of anthrax spores. Owing to the hardiness of anthrax spores, and their ease of production in vitro, they are extraordinarily well suited to use as biological weapons. Such weaponization has been accomplished in the past by at least five state bio-weapons programs — those of the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Russia and Iraq — and has been attempted by several others.
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