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Anthrax question
Wondering if you can help with a query about Anthrax?

A colleague was asking about guidelines and testing, but I wasn't sure what action they should take.

Is this usually carried out by archaeologists and if so how?

I've read the 1999 English Heritage guidelines and it says not to test, but to gear up for prevention of infection. Is this still the correct procedure for buildings and burials?

Any help would be great,
Do not know what the procedures are now but it use to be MAF (I know they no longer exist so who is the current equivelant DEFRA?) who did all the testing in specialist labs I think they use to collect the samples as well. Not one for archaeologists to mess with I would have thought. I can remember being told not to mess with any buried animal that still had its wool on. Prevention i.e suitable protective clothing should be the approach if anthrax is even suspected. Also specialist advice an absolute must before even contemplating excavation on a site where there is reason to suspect the spores in the soil.
You want our old friend HSG174...
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Whatever happened to the old strains that used to kill millions in uncontrollable epidemics? -modern military scientists seem to have trouble making a lab-rat ill with the stuff. Or is it just that everything was better in the old days? (dons rose-tinted spectacles...)
Thanks for the link Kevin, interesting bed time reading, looks like sensible procedures over the last 20 years or so have almost eliminated the risk in this country.

They did not have health and safety in the old days or legislation on how to deal with animals and their waste products. There is no past period in history when I would want to live. In no era prior to 1938 would I have made it past the age of 4 yes the good old daysSad
Public Health England (previously the Health Protection Agency) deal with outbreaks of anthrax. Apart from the two outbreaks in drug users in the last two years there have been very few cases in recent years.

PHE produce the anthrax vaccine for use in Europe (I think). It's still classed as a biological warfare threat and, sorry Dinosaur, its very easy to infect lab rats with this disease.
Misty Wrote:sorry Dinosaur, its very easy to infect lab rats with this disease.

Yes, but whats the mortality rate, and why even in the less developed parts of the world (where despite best efforts, hygene and medicine haven't improved half as much as everyone would like), are there no longer raging epidemics? I'm actually genuinely interested

As an aside, my brother (who's a vet approaching retirement age) says avoid any cattle burials up to the mid-1950s if the farmer (or his dad or grandad) remembers 'murrain', that'll be anthrax to us younger generations...
Dinosaur Wrote:As an aside, my brother (who's a vet approaching retirement age) says avoid any cattle burials up to the mid-1950s if the farmer (or his dad or grandad) remembers 'murrain', that'll be anthrax to us younger generations...

We once had a farmer tell us there was a pit full of cattle that died from rinderpest in a field we were trial trenching. We had no clue what this was but avoided ther area like the plague (pun very much intended). With the benefit of Google (which was a long way from bing dreamed up at the time) I now know this to be something in a similar vein to Anthrax and judging by the alternative name of Steppe Murrain it would seem to be the disease noted by Dinosaur Senior.
D. Vader
Senior Consultant

Vader Maull & Palpatine
Archaeological Consultants

A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of Tony Robinson.
Oh dear, I've been involved in publishing an interesting group of 18th century rinderpest cattle burials - maybe in the past we didn't catch stuff because we didn't know the hazards? Bit like the older people on here having been encouraged to stick their hands in bowls of mercury during science lessons at school with no apparent long-term effect, whereas kids nowadays aren't allowed in the same room as the stuff...
Hi Dinosaur - I think there was a huge oubreak of anthrax in central Africa in the 1980's. It seemed to kill hippos more than anything else. I'm not sure of the numbers of historic outbreaks in UK - it is a spore so is airborne. I guess when animal skins were treated in heavily populated urban areas then there was more chance of it being breathed in. Animals and skins are treated with fungicides now so I guess that would also keep numbers down. The places where anthrax spores are likely to lurk are comprehensively dealt with by quarantine, incineration etc. Workers likely to be infected - those working with skins, farm labourers etc. can be vaccinated. Unfortunately it is still nearly 100% fatal once caught.

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