Anthrax is a disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a germ that lives in soil. Many people know about it from the 2001 bioterror attacks. In the attacks, someone purposely spread anthrax through the U.S. mail. This killed five people and made 22 sick.

Anthrax is rare. It affects animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats more often than people. People can get anthrax from contact with infected animals, wool, meat, or hides. It can cause three forms of disease in people. They are

  • Cutaneous, which affects the skin. People with cuts or open sores can get it if they touch the bacteria.
  • Inhalation, which affects the lungs. You can get this if you breathe in spores of the bacteria.
  • Gastrointestinal, which affects the digestive system. You can get it by eating infected meat.

Antibiotics often cure anthrax if it is diagnosed early. But many people don't know they have anthrax until it is too late to treat. A vaccine to prevent anthrax is available for people in the military and others at high risk.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Symptoms of Anthrax

The following features are indicative of Anthrax:
  • painless sore with a black center
  • swelling in the sore
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • mild chest discomfort
  • shortness of breath
It is possible that Anthrax shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Anthrax

The following are the most common causes of Anthrax:
  • anthrax spores inhalation
  • drink water or eat food contaminated with spores
  • get spores in a scraped skin

Risk Factors for Anthrax

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Anthrax:
  • people work with animals or animal products
  • travelers
  • postal workers
  • military personnel

Prevention of Anthrax

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Anthrax. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid contact with animal skin in anthrax prone areas
  • avoid eating meat that hasn't properly cooked
  • handle dead animal with care
  • take care when working with imported fur, hides or wool

Occurrence of Anthrax

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Anthrax cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Rare between 10K - 50K cases

Common Age Group

Anthrax most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged between 20-50 years

Common Gender

Anthrax can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Anthrax

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Anthrax:
  • Gamma bacteriophage testing: To detect antibodies
  • Indirect hemagglutination: To detect antibodies
  • Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay: To detect antibodies

Doctor for Diagnosis of Anthrax

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Anthrax:
  • Infectious disease specialists

Complications of Anthrax if untreated

Yes, Anthrax causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Anthrax is left untreated:
  • septicemia
  • can be fatal

Procedures for Treatment of Anthrax

The following procedures are used to treat Anthrax:
  • Continuous fluid drainage: Allow the pus to drain out
  • Surgery: Remove the infected tissue

Medicines for Anthrax

Below is the list of medicines used for Anthrax:

Self-care for Anthrax

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Anthrax:
  • Do personal disinfection: Washing contaminated skin with soap and water will remove anthrax organisms
  • Clothing disinfection

Time for Treatment of Anthrax

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Anthrax to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 3 months

Is Anthrax Infectious?

Yes, Anthrax is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • people with cuts or open sores
  • inhalation of spores of the bacteria
  • eating infected meat

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Anthrax.
Biodefense and Bioterrorism

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