Centers for Disease Control
Factsheet on Biological
Agents from the Centers for Disease Control
has been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reuse
or reproduction of this material is authorized.
- Anthrax is
an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus
anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in hoofed mammals and can also infect
- Symptoms of
disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but usually occur
within 7 days after exposure. The serious forms of human anthrax are inhalation
anthrax, cutaneous anthrax, and intestinal anthrax. Initial symptoms of inhalation
anthrax infection may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms
may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation anthrax is
often fatal. The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption
of contaminated food and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the
intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and
fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea.
- Direct person-to-person
spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely, if it occurs at all. Therefore, there
is no need to immunize or treat contacts of persons ill with anthrax, such
as household contacts, friends, or coworkers, unless they also were also exposed
to the same source of infection.
- In persons
exposed to anthrax, infection can be prevented with antibiotic treatment.
Early antibiotic treatment of anthrax is essential- delay lessens chances
for survival. Anthrax usually is susceptible to penicillin, doxycycline, and
- An anthrax
vaccine also can prevent infection. Vaccination against anthrax is not recommended
for the general public to prevent disease and is not available.
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