Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivorous mammals, although other mammals and some birds have been known to contract it. Until the introduction and widespread use of effective veterinary vaccines, it was a major cause of fatal disease in cattle, sheep, goats, camels, horses, and pigs throughout the world. Anthrax continues to be reported from many countries in domesticated and wild herbivores, especially where livestock vaccination programmes are inadequate or have been disrupted.
Humans generally acquire the disease directly or indirectly from infected animals, or occupational exposure to infected or contaminated animal products. Control in livestock is therefore the key to reduced incidence. The disease is generally regarded as being non-contagious. Records of person-to-person spread exist, but are rare.
For more information about prevention and treatment, consult the WHO fact sheet. See also Information resources for further details of the disease.