How is anthrax diagnosed?
- The skin lesions will eventually turn black. If you have a painless ulcer (sore) that is suspected to be cutaneous anthrax, the doctor will take a small sample of the fluid and see if it grows under special conditions in the laboratory. Samples will be viewed under a microscope. The anthrax bacteria will look different than other, similar organisms. If anthrax is suspected, laboratory personnel will take special care with the sample because it is considered a biohazard. Anthrax is not contagious from person to person, however, standard hospital practices of hygiene, known as universal precautions, will prevent spread from the sample to other people.
- If you have cutaneous anthrax and have developed a fever and other symptoms throughout your body, the doctor may test your blood for the bacteria.
- If the doctor thinks you may have inhalational anthrax, you will have a chest X-ray or a CT scan. Other tests may be performed, including a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). You will also be admitted to the hospital.
- An infectious-disease specialist may be among the doctors consulted to assist with management.
When should I seek medical care for anthrax?
Anthrax develops rapidly, so immediate medical attention is required. Go to a hospital's emergency department if you have been or think you have been exposed to spores.
Cutaneous (skin) anthrax. Picture courtesy of AVIP agency, Office of the Army Surgeon General, U.S.
Skin lesion of anthrax on face. Picture courtesy of the Public Health Image Library, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/5/2016
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