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When making a diagnosis of anthrax, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests. A few tests that the doctor may order include specimen tests (such as blood tests) and a chest x-ray. Chest x-rays are especially helpful for verifying that a person has inhalation anthrax.
Anthrax Diagnosis: An IntroductionIn order to make an anthrax diagnosis, the doctor will ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests. As part of diagnosing anthrax, the doctor will also rule out other more common medical conditions, such as the common cold or flu.
If it is determined that a person is at high risk for anthrax, the doctor may recommend certain lab tests.
Diagnosing Anthrax With TestsCertain tests that the doctor may order to help make a diagnosis of anthrax include:
- Specimen tests, such as blood tests
- Chest x-ray.
In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will take a sample of fluid, and look at it under a microscope for evidence of the anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis).
The fluid examined will depend on the type of anthrax the doctor suspects:
- Cutaneous anthrax -- fluid from the skin blister and blood
- Inhalation anthrax (also known as pulmonary anthrax) -- blood and cerebrospinal fluid
- Gastrointestinal anthrax -- blood.
Other blood tests will be ordered to confirm that your body is fighting an infection.
A chest x-ray can be used to help diagnose inhalation anthrax in people who are experiencing anthrax symptoms. It is not useful as a test for determining anthrax exposure, or for people with no symptoms.