Anthrax Home > More Information on Anthrax


Symptoms differ, depending on the type of anthrax a person has.
For all three types, symptoms can appear within seven days of coming in contact with the bacteria (Bacillus anthracis). For inhalation anthrax, symptoms can appear within a week, or can take up to 42 days to appear.
(Click Anthrax Symptoms for more information on this topic.)


Anthrax is not contagious among humans -- it is not spread from one person to another. Instead, transmission occurs in one of two ways:
  • From animals
  • As the result of a biological weapon.

How Is It Diagnosed?

In order to make a 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, the doctor may recommend certain lab tests, including:
  • Specimen tests, such as blood tests
  • Chest x-ray.


Treatment typically involves antibiotics, and providing relief of symptoms and complications as the body fights the bacteria (supportive care).
If a diagnosis is made early, the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, infected people often confuse early symptoms with more common infections, such as the flu or common cold, and do not seek medical help until severe symptoms appear. By this time, the destructive anthrax toxins have already risen to high levels, making treatment difficult. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria, but antibiotics have no effect on anthrax toxins.
In the event that people are exposed to potentially aerosolized spores, preventive treatment involves 60 days of oral antibiotics, along with a 3-dose regimen (0 weeks, 2 weeks, and 4 weeks) of anthrax vaccine. This combination may help to prevent the development of inhalation anthrax.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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