This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The severity of the condition, the associated signs and symptoms and the prognosis vary depending on which part of the body is involved (see below). Antibiotics can be used to treat all forms of anthrax. Antitoxin medications may also be used to treat some forms of the condition.
Cutaneous (skin) anthrax occurs when the infection enters the body through a cut or sore on the skin. It is the most common type of anthrax and generally the least serious. Affected people may experience a group of small, itchy bumps; swelling around a sore; and/or a painless ulcer with a black center. These skin abnormalities are generally found on the face, neck, arms, or hands. With appropriate treatment, cutaneous anthrax is seldom fatal.
Gastrointestinal anthrax is caused by eating undercooked meat from an infected animal. Signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, fever, and a sore throat.
Pulmonary (lung) anthrax occurs when anthrax spores are inhaled. It is the most deadly form of the condition. Early signs include flu-like symptoms, shortness of breath, nausea, and coughing up blood. As the condition advances, affected people may develop high fever, difficulty breathing, shock, and meningitis. Even with treatment, pulmonary anthrax may be fatal.
Injection anthrax is spread by injecting illegal drugs. Signs and symptoms of this form of anthrax include redness and swelling at the sight of the infection. The condition may progress to shock, multiple organ failure and meningitis.
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