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Epidemiological data on 448 cases of human cutaneous anthrax from the Gambia showed that this particular strain of anthrax bacillus causes widespread morbidity and some mortality with, at the same time, subclinical infection. Analysis also showed that anthrax is not an occupationally related disease in the Gambia.
The possibility of human-to-human spread, affecting all age groups and both sexes, by means of a communal toilet article was also shown. The fact that the strain is a good toxin producer but contains a weak antigen may have accounted for the repeated clinical infection and the fact that antibody titres were generally transient. Subclinical infection in animals was also found, particularly in sheep and goats, and also, with an unusually low mortality, in cows. Insect vectors were not excluded, but were unlikely. Vultures may spread the disease from village to village. Some possible public health and immunization procedures are discussed, with a view to containing this difficult problem in this part of west Africa.