Anthrax Home > Cutaneous Anthrax

Cutaneous anthrax is the most common type of anthrax, a serious bacterial disease. Symptoms include a raised, itchy bump that develops into a blister within one to two days and eventually becomes a painless ulcer. This disease responds well to antibiotics, but may spread throughout the body if left untreated. Death is rare when appropriate treatment is administered.

What Is Cutaneous Anthrax?

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Cutaneous anthrax is the most common of the three main types. About 95 percent of cases are the result of cutaneous anthrax.

How Is It Transmitted?

Cutaneous anthrax infections occur when the bacterium Bacillus anthracis enters a cut or abrasion on the skin. This may happen when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather, or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals.

Symptoms of Cutaneous Anthrax

With cutaneous anthrax, the skin infection that results begins as a raised, itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within one to two days develops into a blister. This blister then turns into a painless ulcer with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center (see Anthrax Pictures). Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.

Treatment and Prognosis

Cutaneous anthrax responds well to antibiotics, but may spread throughout the body if untreated.
About 20 percent of untreated cases will result in death. Deaths from this type of anthrax are rare with appropriate treatment.

Who Is at Risk for Cutaneous Anthrax?

People who work with certain animals or animal carcasses are at risk of getting cutaneous anthrax. This disease is rare in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are only one to two reported cases per year in the United States.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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