Bacillus anthracis has been responsible for
pandemics in humans and animals for centuries in Europe, the Middle-East and
Africa. This spore-forming bacterium was most likely transported
to the Mississippi River Delta during the French settlement by
cargo ships from the Nile valley.1 Outbreaks are most
commonly recognized in livestock ,although other domestic
animals and wildlife, especially deer, may be involved.2,3
Farmers, butchers, veterinarians and persons working with wool,
mohair, hides or bones have traditionally had the greatest
potential for becoming infected.2 The three
manifestations of anthrax are cutaneous (from direct contact
with infected materials), respiratory (from inhalation of
spores), and intestinal (from eating infected meat). In 1980,
less than six cases were being reported in the US annually and
nearly all (95-98%) of these were nonfatal cutaneous anthrax
History of Anthrax in Florida
The first recorded outbreak of
anthrax in Florida occurred in a dairy herd near Miami in 1927
In 1935, anthrax was again diagnosed in a small group of cattle
in north Florida, near Quincy, that had been imported from
Kansas City, Missouri. In both instances the disease died out
and did not threaten the cattle industry. No cattle or human
cases were reported until 1951, when a cowboy working on a
Broward County ranch bordering the Everglades suffered a minor
knife wound while skinning a carcass. A rigid quarantine
controlling the movement of cattle in a 125 sq. mi. area was
imposed and 50,000 animals were given prophylactic treatment.
Four other human cases developed during the course of the
outbreak. In January of 1974, the Naval Air Station in
Jacksonville documented an eye infection of anthrax in a young
female recruit that had had recently visited Haiti.
Investigation revealed the source of infection to be a goatskin
covered drum which carried B. anthracis spores.5
Following this case, Florida
went twenty-seven years without an additional case of anthrax.
In October 2001, however, a journalist and mailroom employee at
a Florida media company became infected with inhalational
anthrax through contaminated mail. These cases were soon
identified as a part of a bioterrorist event, which affected
eight other individuals in New York, New Jersey, and Washington,
D.C. Both Florida cases developed pulmonary disease; one of
these patients was treated with ciprofloxacin and recovered,
while the other individual died in the hospital.6 These cases led to
increased awareness of the potential threat of bioterrorism, as
well as new protective measures to reduce these threats.
For more information on
anthrax, and national precautions against bioterrorism, see the
following CDC website -
CDC: Anthrax and Animal Hides
1. Williams, NF. Anthrax.
2. Rees, HB and Smith, MA.
Anthrax.. In Diagnostic Procedures for Bacterial, Mycotic
and Parasitic Infections. Balows, A and Hausler, WJ, (eds)
Am. Pub. Hlth, Assn. 6th edition,
3. Kellogg, FE, et al.
Anthrax epizootic in white-tailed deer. J. Wildl. Dis.1980;6: 226-28.
4. Scatterday, JE, et al.
Anthrax in Florida. Vet. Med. 1954;XLIX;188-90.
5. HRS Division of Health. 1974
6. Jernigan, J, et al.
Bioterrorism-Related Inhalational Anthrax: The First 10 Cases
Reported in the United States. Emerging Infectious