Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Preparedness: Treating Anthrax

In this part of my preparedness series, I will talk about different common and uncommon diseases, illnesses and other health inflictions that wouldn't be easily treated during a long term crisis. This is not a replacement for medical advice, it is just my notes on how to cope with the situation using herbs if no medical help was available due to a long term crisis or other disaster scenario. It is intended for educational purposes only. All cases of anthrax should be assessed and treated by a medical provider.

What is it?

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by spore-forming bacteria known as endospores. It most commonly appears in domestic and wild herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats but can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from the infected animals. While carnivores (including humans) can contract the disease from eating herbivores, there is little chance of it being spread from human to human by contact.
Anthrax has also been listed as a potential biological weapon and has been used as such in the past.
Why should it be feared?
Spores live in the soil and can live for decades before an animal comes into contact with the spores (usually by grazing) and is infected. 
When humans come in contact with the spores through inhalation, the disease can cause severe and fatal respiratory collapse. Historical mortality was 92% and in modern times when treated early, mortality was 45%.
Those who contract anthrax through eating tainted meat face a 25% - 60% chance of dying from the disease, depending on how quickly it is treated. 
The least feared form comes from those who contract anthrax through cuts in their skin. It is rarely fatal if treated and those who go untreated face a 20% chance of progressing to toxemia and death.
What should be done?
During normal times, testing should be done to determine which type of anthrax has been contracted and antibiotics should be given both intravenously and orally. Antibiotics used are erythromycin, vancomycin, penicillin, cyprofloxacin or doxycycline. For inhalation anthrax, a new drug, raxibacumab, also known as ABthrax was created for emergency treatment of inhaled anthrax. If death occurs from anthrax, the body should be isolated to prevent the spread of anthrax germs. Burial does NOT kill anthrax spores. 
There are three ways of contracting anthrax: 
Inhalation / Pulmonary - Caused by inhaling spores. Has highest death rate. This mode of infection is the mode used as a bioweapon.
Ingestion / Gastrointestinal - Contracted by eating anthrax-infected meat. This is the rarest form of anthrax contraction at time of publication.
Cutaneous - Infection is contracted by the bacteria entering the body through a cut in the skin. This method is the most highly contracted form (95% of all anthrax cases are cutaneous), least lethal and easiest to treat.
Those who died due to known or suspected anthrax contraction should be cremated and all items, bedding, linens, etc. coming in contact should also be burned to destroy the endospores. Buried spores will continue to live and may contaminate the surrounding ground over which they are buried. 
Those handling bodies with anthrax/suspected anthrax exposure should use respiratory masks capable of filtering particles 0.5–5.0 μm as this is the bacilli size range. A disposable gown and gloves should be worn as well. 
Clothing, linens, etc. can be decontaminated by boiling in water for a minimum of 30 minutes. Chlorine beach will NOT kill spores. 
What are the stages?
Incubation Period: 24 hours - 2 months
Incubation depends on the type of contracted anthrax.
Inhalation: less than 7 days - 2 months
Ingestion: 1 - 7 days
Cutaneous: up to 24 hours
Initial symptoms: 1-5 days
Inhalation: Symptoms begin with cold or flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, mild fever, nonproductive cough, fatigue, chest discomfort, muscle aches, sweating and malaise.
Ingestion: Begins with nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and fever which progresses to severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood and diarrhea that is usually bloody.
Cutaneous: Starts out as a raised, itchy bump that may resemble an insect bite. Localized itching may occur as well. Within 1 - 2 days the bump changes to a blister. 
Progressive symptoms: 4 - 8 days
Inhalation: After a 1 - 5 days of initial symptoms, there may follow 1 - 3 days of improvement after which an abrupt onset of high fever and severe respiratory distress occurs. 
Ingestion: Spreads throughout bloodstream, creating more toxins and causing abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and vomiting blood. Lesions may appear in the mouth and throat (and intestines which will not be seen). 2 - 4 days after symptoms begin, abdominal pain decreases while accumulation of fluid develops in the abdomen. 
Cutaneous: 7 - 10 days after developing the bump, changes into a painless ulcer that is 1/3 - 1 inch in diameter with a necrotic center that is black. Lymph glands in the surrounding area may swell. 
Death: 2 - 30 days
Death generally peaks at 8 days after exposure.
Inhalation: Shock, followed by death typically caused by respiratory collapse within 24 - 36 hours after high fever occurs. 
Ingestion: Shock and death occur 2 - 5 days from onset of symptoms. 
Cutaneous: As long as treated, rarely occurs.
What are my options?
Even if you cannot get antibiotics, treatment is possible IF it is caught early enough. The most common form (cutaneous) has an 80% chance of resolving on its own. 
Step 1: Cleanse
Inhalation: Use a neti pot to rinse your nasal passages if you suspect exposure. Follow directions supplied with the neti pot. After you have rinsed your nose, spit out any liquid that runs into your mouth and blow your nose. 
Cutaneous: Flush the wound with a saline solution 
Step 2: Boost the immune system
Begin taking herbs to boost your immune system. 
Echinacea (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, E. pallida)
A strong dose is recommended: 1 drop of tincture for every pound of body weight taken every hour for at least 10 days.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry is an immunomodulator. Take 1 dropperful every 2 hours for 7 - 10 days.
Take large doses of vitamin C. Rose hips, Elderberries, Pine needles, tomatoes, citrus fruits all have large doses of vitamin C. 
Step 3: Eat nourishing foods
Avoid eating sugary foods, preservatives, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and any medications that may contain immune suppressing substances. 
Add foods and herbs to your diet that include both vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B6, C, E, Beta Carotene, Selenium, Amino Acids, Lysine and Zinc. 
The following vegetables and herbs should be eaten in large quantities: 
Beets, carrots, garlic and  medicinal mushrooms such as Reishii (Ganoderma lucidum) and Shitake (Lentinus edodes) which can both be found in the wild. 
Seaweeds, dark leafy greens, miso soup, dandelion greens, Nettles (as food and in infusions), sweet potatoes, broccoli, prunes and lentils. 
Step 4: Herbal Treatment
The following are various herbal treatments that have been suggested to be used for treating anthrax. Use what you have available in your region. Combine as many herbs as possible. Herbs that go especially well together will be mentioned in their descriptions.
Poke root (Phytolacca americana, P. decandra)
This herb is a low dose botanical and needs to be respected but it is a powerful herbal treatment for lymph and glandular problems as well as an extreme immune booster. It is also an antibacterial and magnifies the effects of Echinacea which should also be taken during an anthrax scare. Do NOT increase this dosage as serious side effects can take place including dizziness, seeing floaters, spaciness, vomiting, prostration, convulsions and death. When taken appropriately it is safe and highly effective. As a preventative, 1 drop of tincture per DAY up to 3 months. If contact is suspected, dosage may be increased up to 1 drop 6 times a day depending on body weight. For children, stick to 1 drop a day and for teenagers and adults up to 110 lbs, use 1 drop 3 - 4 times a day, backing off if any symptoms of overdose appear. For adults and teens over 110 lbs, use 1 drop 4 - 6 times a day, backing off if any symptoms of overdose appear.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow kills both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Tincture can be added to the neti pot for rinsing the nose (add a dropperful to the pot before flushing). Take 1 dropperful 4 times a day for 20 days.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Cayenne is antibacterial and useful for many things. It can be sprinkled directly into a cutaneous anthrax wound site or made into a tincture to be added to water and drank. Adding it to your food can be helpful too. As a tincture, take 20 - 30 drops in a cup of water 2 times a day.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
A powerful antibiotic, garlic should be eaten with every meal. Cloves can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled. 
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Considered to be one of the most important herbs in the world by many herbalists, this herb can help flavor less tasty herbs while being useful to kill bacteria, boost the immune system and nourish the lungs among other things. It is thought to harmonize the action of all other herbs.  1 cup of tea 3 times daily or 1 dropperful 3 times daily. 
Usnea (Usnea barbata)
Another powerful antibacterial, tincture dose is 1 dropperful 2 times a day for 10 days.
Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius, P. ginseng
Boosts the immune system, and nourishes with the production of responses necessary to help fight off anthrax such as killer t-cells, interferon, antibodies and phagocytes. Can be taken as a tincture, tea or extract. Safe to take in large amounts but if you start feeling jittery, shaky and unpleasant, back off on your dosage.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
Astragalus is safe and a long term immune booster and is restorative. It is best taken long term. Either tincture and take 1 dropperful 3 times daily for 6 months or add roots to daily food such as soup.
Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
Wild Indigo is a natural antibiotic, capable of preventing microbes and bacteria from multiplying in the body. It also has an immune enhancing effect. Take 1 dropperful 3 times a day.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Also referred to as Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero is an adaptogen and will help the body to recover. 1 dropperful or 1 cup of tea taken daily for 1 month. Some people may have reactions to Eleuthero such as jitters, shaking, spaciness and headaches. Discontinue use if these symptoms appear.
Kitchen Herb Tea Blend
Many kitchen herbs are antibacterial and useful for fighting off infection. A strong tea can be drank several times a day and can include kitchen herbs such as Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), and Sage (Salvia officinalis).

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