Anthrax can infect the skin (through wounds), the lungs (through inhalation of spores), and the gut (through the eating of infected animals). Potentially, almost all animals can spread the disease, but it’s particularly associated with hoofed livestock. Its most common victims are people who work on farms or in processing plants. The lung and gut forms of the disease are often fatal.
Anthrax is believed to have killed 60 thousand people in Europe in the early 1600s. It is also, because of its capacity to spread in powedered form, a viable weapon for bioterrorists. Five people died of anthrax in the terror attacks of 2001. In 2005, an outbreak among wildlife and cattle in Zimbabwe claimed at least three human lives. At about the same time, several people died of it in Kenya.
Today researchers are reporting new insights about the history of this ancient disease.