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late 14c., "any severe boil or carbuncle," from Latin, from Greek anthrax "charcoal, live coal," also "carbuncle," of unknown origin. Specific sense of the malignant disease in sheep and cattle (and occasionally humans) is from 1876.
anthrax an·thrax (ān'thrāks')
An infectious, usually fatal disease of warm-blooded animals that is characterized by ulcerative skin lesions, can be transmitted to humans, and is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Also called carbuncle.
pl. an·thra·ces (-thrə-sēz') A lesion caused by anthrax.
An infectious, usually fatal disease of mammals, especially cattle and sheep, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The disease is transmitted to humans through cutaneous contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Cutaneous anthrax is marked by the formation of a necrotic skin ulcer, high fever, and toxemia. Inhalation anthrax leads to severe pneumonia that is usually fatal.
An infectious disease transmitted by a bacterium in animals, which can also be transmitted to humans. Often fatal if the bacterium enters the lungs, anthrax is usually treated by antibiotics. Anthrax is a potential weapon in germ warfare and bioterrorism.
Note: After the September 11 attacks (2001) in the United States, anthrax spores sent through the mail caused several fatalities.
Note: If spores are prepared in a sophisticated way, they can stay in the air and be breathed in by human beings. Anthrax produced in this way is referred to as weaponized anthrax.