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  • Gram positive rod, Bacillus anthracis, which is capable of surviving inhospitable condition through the formation of endospores. tough spores
  • Incubation period is 10 days with no ability for human to human transmission and therefore, no need for respiratory isolation
  • In general there is cutaneous, inhalational, and gastrointesinal anthrax.

Inhalational (5%)

  • Biphasic course

Prodrome Period

  • Early prodromal period often appears as an influenza like illness
  • Fever, dry cough, mylagia, malaise
  • Transient clinical improvement followed by rapid decline

Acute phase

  • Severe respiratory distress with symptoms consisting of[1]:
    • Hypoxia, tachypnea, cyanosis
    • Severe dyspnea, chest pain
    • Shock
    • Mediasitinits

Cutaneous (95%)

Cutaneous anthrax
  • The disease will start as an area of errythema and edema and progress to a vesicle which ruptures forming a central black eschar
  • Total course of lesion evolution occurs over 1 week


  • Over the course of 7 days, nonspecific abdominal pain, nausea and vomitting with progress to severe abdominal pain, bloody emesis and diarrhea (usually bloody)[2]

Differential Diagnosis

Cutaneous (painless)


Lower Respiratory Zoonotic Infections

Bioterrorism Agents[3]

Category A

Category B

  • Ricin
  • Brucellosis
  • Epsilon toxin
  • Psittacosis
  • Q Fever
  • Staph enterotoxin B
  • Typhus
  • Glanders
  • Melioidosis
  • Food safety threats
  • Water safety threats
  • Viral encephalitis

Category C



  • Widened mediastinum representing hemorrhagic mediastinitis
  • Infiltrate, pleural effusion
  • Hyperdense mediastinal lymphadenopathy


Contact CDC Emergency Hotline 1-707-488-7100 for all suspected bioterrorism cases

Postexposure Prophylaxis

Patient should be vaccinated at day #0, #14, #28

Cutaneous Anthrax (not systemically ill)

  • Ciprofloxacin 500mg PO q12hrs x 60 days
  • Doxycycline 100mg PO q12hrs x 60 days

Inhalation or Cutaneous with systemic illness

Pediatric Postexpsoure Prophylaxis

Pediatric Cutaneous Anthrax (not ill)

  • Same as post exposure dosing and duration

Pediatric Inhalational or Cutaneous (systemically ill


  • Admit

See Also


  1. Medscape: Anthrax
  2. CDC. Gastrointestinal anthrax after an animal-hide drumming event - New Hampshire and Massachusetts, 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 Jul 23;59(28):872-7.
  3. Accessed 02/26/16