Anthrax is a potentially lethal disease caused by a bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. The bacteria produce spores that when inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the skin release toxins. When anthrax affects the lungs or intestines it can cause death within a few days whilst infection of the skin (cutaneous anthrax) is less dangerous.
Infection can occur from contact with infected livestock, meat or hides, but most people know about anthrax from its use as a biological weapon, notably in the 2001 attacks through the US postal system. The anthrax bacterium can be used in this way because its spores survive for long amounts of time and are easily reproduced.
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