Anthrax has been described as a veterinary disease of minor importance to clinical medicine, causing occasional occupational infections in single cases or clusters. Its potential for rapid and widespread epidemic transmission under natural circumstances has not been widely appreciated. A little-known 1770 epidemic that killed 15,000 people in Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) was probably intestinal anthrax. The epidemic spread rapidly throughout the colony in association with consumption of uncooked beef. Largescale, highly fatal epidemics of anthrax may occur under unusual but natural circumstances. Historical information may not only provide important clues about epidemic development but may also raise awareness about bioterrorism potential.
Emerging Infectious Diseases (October 2002), v.8, no.10, p. 1160-62