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Anthrax

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is anthrax?

Anthrax is an infection caused by bacteria. The bacteria are found in soil and spread from animals to humans. Cutaneous anthrax, or skin infection, is the most common. Lung infection is rare and may develop if you breathe in the bacteria. Intestine infection is also rare and may develop if you eat food that contains the bacteria.

What increases my risk for anthrax?

  • Contact with infected animals, such as their hair or hides
  • Contact with the organism itself
  • Travel to or work in a high-risk area
  • Exposure during a bioterrorist event
  • Substance abuse

What are the signs and symptoms of anthrax?

You may have a fever, headache, muscle aches, or swollen glands with any of the following 3 types of infection.

  • Skin infection:
    • Raised, itchy bump, like an insect bite
    • One or more blisters with swelling around them
    • Painless ulcer covered by a black scab
  • Lung infection:
    • Cough or trouble breathing
    • A cold sweat
    • Chest pain
    • Stiff neck
    • Confusion or dizziness
  • Intestine infection:
    • Severe sore throat
    • Vomiting blood
    • Loss of appetite
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Blood in your bowel movement

How is anthrax diagnosed?

  • Blood tests will show the bacteria causing your infection.
  • A sample of an open sore or mucus you cough up may show the anthrax bacteria.
  • An x-ray or CT may show signs of an anthrax infection. You may be given contrast liquid to help your chest and abdomen show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is anthrax treated?

  • Antibiotics help treat the infection caused by the anthrax bacteria.
  • The anthrax vaccine helps prevent all forms of infection. The vaccine is recommended for people at high risk for infection. This includes anyone who works directly with the bacteria, such as in a lab. Military personnel and anyone who travels to or works with animal hides or fur in high-risk areas should also be vaccinated. The vaccine is not recommended for anyone younger than 18 years.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have severe shortness of breath.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your abdomen is swollen, tender, and hard.
  • You have severe pain.
  • You vomit blood or have blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have a sudden, high fever.
  • Your symptoms do not go away or they get worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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