by Amy Scholten, MPH
Anthrax is a rare, life-threatening infection. It leads to swelling, bleeding, and tissue death.
Certain bacteria and its spores cause anthrax. They are found in soil and animals. The spores can get into the body in several ways:
Once in the body, the spores multiply and release toxins.
The risk of anthrax is higher in those who:
Symptoms start within a few days after infection.
Cutaneous symptoms may be:
Inhalation symptoms start with:
Other symptoms begin later such as:
Gastrointestinal symptoms can be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor may give tests to rule out other causes.
Tests to diagnose anthrax may be:
Treatment will start right away. It will involve:
The risk of anthrax may be reduced by:
A vaccine may be given to some people at high risk for anthrax.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Military Health System
Public Health Agency of Canada
Anthrax. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/anthrax. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Anthrax. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/anthrax Accessed February 2, 2021.
Anthrax. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/gram-positive-bacilli/anthrax. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Bower WA, Schiffer J, et al. Use of anthrax vaccine in the United States: recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices, 2019. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2019;68(4):1-14.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/2/2021
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