If diagnosed early, inhalation anthrax may be treated successfully with antibiotics. Unfortunately, infected people often confuse early inhalation anthrax symptoms with more common infections and do not seek medical help until severe symptoms develop. By that 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.
Historically, the mortality rate for naturally occurring inhalation anthrax has been high. Death occurs in about 75 percent of all cases.
How Common Is Inhalation Anthrax?
Inhalational anthrax is rare. In the fall of 2001, lethal anthrax bacteria were spread deliberately through the US mail. Twenty-two people became ill, and five died of inhalation anthrax. Prior to 2001, the last known US case of inhalation anthrax was in 1976, when a California craftsman died after getting the infection from imported yarn contaminated with anthrax spores.
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