What is anthrax?

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. There are three types of anthrax infection:
  • Cutaneous anthrax occurs when spores from B. anthracis touch or scrape the skin. It's the most common type of anthrax infection. Symptoms include ulcers, or sores, on the skin and, often, fever and fatigue. Most people with cutaneous anthrax get better when treated with antibiotics, although as many as 20% of people who don't receive treatment may die.
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when people eat raw or undercooked meat. Signs of infection may include diarrhea, fever, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and swollen lymph glands. Gastrointestinal anthrax can spread to the blood, resulting in shock and death.
  • Inhalation anthrax is the most serious form of anthrax infection. It occurs when a person breathes in B. anthracis. The infection occurs when the inhaled spores sprout -- usually within one to six days. Early symptoms may include sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches, followed by severe breathing problems, shock and often meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord covering). Inhalation anthrax requires aggressive treatment with antibiotics and hospitalization. However, it is often fatal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.