Public Health England releases report on anthrax risk

The risk of humans contacting anthrax from contaminated building land in the United Kingdom is extremely low, according to a new report released on Thursday by Public Health England.

Anthrax is caused by a spore-forming bacterium. The disease is primarily found in herbivores, such as in livestock. Humans can be infected when they come into contact with spores. 

The report, "Guidance on Assessing Risk of Anthrax on Building Land," says that it is very rare for humans to be infected in the U.K. When infection does occur, it comes from imported animal products and infected animals.

Between 1981 and 2009, there were only 21 possible cases of anthrax in England. During the world wars, despite the incidence of other diseases from exposure to spore-forming organisms, there were no cases of anthrax due to exposure to contaminated ground. 

Despite the overall low risk of contracting anthrax, the report states that sites where there has been a documented case of anthrax in livestock are at higher risk than others. There is a legal requirement to test these sites before developing the land. The site must be sampled and specimens must be sent for analysis.