- First Aid Essentials Slideshow
- Take the Trauma and First Aid Quiz
- First Aid Sprains & Strains Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Anthrax - Prevention
- Anthrax facts
- What is anthrax? Is anthrax contagious?
- What causes anthrax?
- How is anthrax contracted?
- How common is anthrax? What are risk factors for anthrax infection?
- How long is the incubation period with anthrax?
- What kinds of diseases does anthrax cause? What are the signs and symptoms of anthrax infections?
- What specialists treat anthrax?
- How is the diagnosis made of anthrax?
- What is the treatment for anthrax?
- Is it possible to prevent anthrax? Is there an anthrax vaccine?
- What is the prognosis for anthrax infections?
What specialists treat anthrax?
Although primary-care doctors and pediatricians can treat anthrax, consultation with an infectious-disease specialist is suggested. Other doctors who may help diagnose and/or treat the various types of anthrax include emergency-medicine specialists, pulmonologists, critical-care specialists, and physicians who are experts in treating biologic agents used in warfare.
How is the diagnosis made of anthrax?
The history, including the occupation of the person, is important. The bacteria may be found in cultures or smears in cutaneous (skin) anthrax and in throat swabs and sputum in pulmonary anthrax. Chest X-rays may also show characteristic changes in and between the lungs. Once the anthrax is disseminated, bacteria can be seen in the blood using a microscope. Of course, if anthrax is deliberately spread, the manifestations of the disease may be unusual. Indeed, in the bioterrorism attack in the U.S. in 2001, anthrax spores were spread through the postal system as a white powder mailed with letters.
What is the treatment for anthrax?
In most cases, early treatment can cure anthrax. The cutaneous (skin) form of anthrax can be treated with common antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin (Ilotycin, Ery-Ped, Ery-Tab), and ciprofloxacin (Cipro). The pulmonary form of anthrax is a medical emergency. Early and continuous intravenous therapy with antibiotics may be lifesaving. In a bioterrorism attack, individuals exposed to anthrax will be given antibiotics before they become sick. A vaccine exists but is not yet available to the general public. Most experts think that the vaccine will also be given to exposed individuals who are victims of a bioterrorist attack. Of note, anthrax is a reportable disease. That means that local or state health agencies must be notified if a case of anthrax is diagnosed. These agencies can better characterize the anthrax so that the affected individual can receive the most effective treatment for that particular organism.
Individuals exposed to aerosolized spores (bioterrorism scares or attacks, for example) can participate in postexposure prevention of anthrax. Four antibiotics are recommended by the FDA: doxycycline (Doryx, Oracea, Monodox), ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin (Levaquin, Quixin, Iquix), and parenteral procaine penicillin G. In addition to these antibiotics, a three-dose series of anthrax vaccine should be started as soon as possible after exposure.