A man from Argentina’s Santa Fe province contracted anthrax and died after handling cowhides from some sick animals, according to an notification sent to  ProMed Mail Friday.

The notice from a Buenos Aires microbiologist states the patient came from a rural part of San Jeronimo del Sauce, Santa Fe presenting with a fever, cutaneous anthrax affecting a middle finger, and axillary adenitis. Blood cultures revealed Bacillus anthracis.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria using Gram-stain technique
Anthrax bacterium/CDC

A retrospective epidemiologic investigation found that there had been a number of acute bovine deaths thereabouts, and the patient had harvested hides from said animals in order to make a lasso, the report notes. The veterinarians in this area report that the level of bovine vaccination against anthrax is somewhere between low and sporadic.

Handling contaminated animal or animal products is one way humans can contract the anthrax bacterium. There are 3 types of anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness:

• Cutaneous anthrax

This occurs when the spore (or possibly the bacterium) enters a cut or abrasion on the skin. It starts out as a raised bump that looks like an insect bite. It then develops into a blackened lesion called an eschar (see below) that may form a scab. Lymph glands in the area may swell plus edema may be present. This form of anthrax responds well to antibiotics. If untreated, deaths can occur if the infection goes systemic. 95% of cases of anthrax are cutaneous.

• Gastrointestinal anthrax

This typically follows the ingestion of contaminated meats. It is characterized by stomach pain, severe bloody diarrhea, bloody vomit and an inflammation of the intestinal tract. Up to half of those infected will perish from this form of disease. This is a very rare type of anthrax.

• Inhalation anthrax

Also known as “woolsorter’s disease”, happens due to inhaling the spores. After incubating for less than a week; fever, aches, vomiting are early symptoms. After the initial symptoms, a short period of improvement (less than a day) may occur. It then progresses to severe respiratory distress. Shock and death soon follow. Later stages of this infection have nearly a 100% chance of death even with antibiotics.

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