What Does Anthrax Look Like? Do You Have An Anthrax Protection Protocol?

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

What does anthrax look like? Man in a protected suitAmong different bio-terrorist agents, Anthrax bacillus is considered the most likely pathogen to be used. So, what does anthrax look like? It can be quickly and inexpensively mass-produced. It is also odorless and colorless, so there is no immediate indication one is inhaling the airborne pathogen. By the time symptoms appear, the terrorist is long gone and you will not know what happened. What does anthrax look like is very important to know for reasons such as those.

Ways to get Anthrax

  • Skin. Coetaneous Anthrax follows the deposition of B anthracis spores to the epidermis. They multiple and produce TOXIN. Local lesion is the evidence that our body can actually confined the infection.
  • Air way. Inhalation infection is possible from the air-borne particle contaminated with the Anthrax spores. Spores are carried to the lymph nodes where germination takes place. Toxin then is produced.
  • GI (gastrointestinal). Vegetative cells are ingested, and they pass through the intestinal mucous, germinated and multiply, producing toxin. Toxin causes necrosis and ulcerative lesion. This is usually in the ileum/cecum area, leading to hemorrhage (internal bleeding).

What does anthrax look like? Symptoms

  1. Inhaled: Onset of disease depends to a great extent on dosage inhaled. Initial symptoms resemble that of common cold or flu, with malaise, muscle aches, tiredness, accompanies by cough and chest discomfort. Onset is usually from 2-6 days after exposure. This is followed by a few days of improvements, and a subsequent relapse of symptoms, only this time is much worse. Symptoms include neck swelling on chest X-Ray (widened mediastinum a hallmark characteristic) . Pleural effusion and mild pneumonitis may develop. Untreated, mortality is approximately 20 percent.

    50 per cent of anthrax cases have associated hemorrhagic meningitis. Death typically occurs 24-36 hours later.

  2. Cutaneous: Anthrax can also be transmitted through cutaneous exposure through a skin lesion, not through intact skin. A small painless black lesion is the first symptom. Ulceration of the lesion follows an incubation period of 1-5 days. Massive surrounding edema is common. Fever, chill and lymph node inflammation may also occur.

    what does anthrax look like? Depiction of anthrax under a microscopeAnthrax is not transmitted from one person to another through airway secretions, bodily fluids or intestinal content. Contact is required, such as wool coat, shaving brush, or yarn that are commonly originated from Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Anthrax does not penetrate thru intact skin. It produces spores that are resistant to heat and disinfectant. In a developed country, anthrax is likely to be agriculturally acquired or through the laboratory. Agriculture cases commonly is associated with contact with diseased animal: cattle, swine, or horses.

  3. Gastrointestinal: Incubation period is 2-5 days after the ingestion of the contaminated meat. symptoms include nausea, vomiting, anorexia ( no appetite), fever. stomach pain, vomit blood, and bloody diarrhea. White blood cell count can be elevated.


So, what does anthrax look like and how can it be prevented? A myriad of disease, from cancer to hormonal dysfunction, can now be traced to immune system breakdown. A strong defense is the best offense. In the case of Anthrax, this cannot be truer. Those living in metropolitan areas are exposed to a variety of toxins from pollution. The immune system is often compromised. Since there is no way to know where the bio-terrorist attack may occur, the best prevention is to have a strong body with health immune system.

  1. Start with a healthy anti-aging diet with abundance of anti-oxidants and fresh whole vegetables. Consider a vegetable juicing program to boost immune function.
  2. Key nutritional supplements with immune enhancing properties include zinc, vitamin C, and selenium.
  3. Maintain a consistent and moderate exercise program also boost the immune system.
  4. Adequate rest and sleep are important factors to a healthy immune system.

Treatment/Suspected Exposure

  1. Immunization carries with it a 93% success rate. It was given to soldiers during the Gulf War, but there are significant side effects associated with the vaccine. Vaccination is therefore not recommended as a general precautionary measure unless you are in a position of high risk . The first thing you should do in suspected exposure to anthrax is to check yourself into a hospital for testing.
  2. Since anthrax can be transmitted into the body through open wounds, those with open lesions and cuts, etc, should keep these exposed areas covered any open wounds with medicated gauze.
  3. Do you know what does anthrax look like? If you feel like you can catch Anthrax, wear a surgical maskTo prevent inhalation of spores during a known attack, wear a surgical mask that is filtered to take out organisms of 0.1 micron. Seal the edges with any tape to tighten the seal. Change masks often. Masks that have been exposed to anthrax spores in contaminated areas should be burned. Do note that anthrax is not transmitted by the respiratory route from person to person. If you find yourself in an anthrax exposed area, a mask may be better than nothing.
  4. Masks exposed to anthrax should be disposed of and burned as they would be highly contaminated. Fresh masks should be put on if one has traveled through a contaminated area and then entered a clean area.
  5. Report to your nearest public health agency. Eating and drinking should be conducted in areas that are not contaminated. Usually this means a building that has its own positive air circulation system that does not mix with outside air. Unfortunately, few buildings are like this.
  6. Disinfection of contaminated articles may be accomplished using a 0.05% hypochlorite solution (1 tbsp. bleach per gallon of water).
  7. The military chemical protective mask is effective against inhalation of all Biological Warfare Agents.


Definitive diagnosis is through positive blood test or cerebral Spinal Fluid


For adults, the CDC-recommended doses are 500 milligrams of Cipro twice a day for 60 days; or 100 mg of doxycycline twice a day for 60 days; or 500 mg of amoxicillin three times a day for 60 days.

FAQ on What does Anthrax look like and other questions, as Published by the Center for Disease Control and other sources

What is anthrax?

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from infected animals.

Why has anthrax become a current issue?

Because anthrax is considered to be a potential agent for use in biological warfare, the Department of Defense (DoD) has begun mandatory vaccination of all active duty military personnel who might be involved in conflict.

What does anthrax look like?

In its most destructive form – an aerosol sprayed into the air – it is invisible and odorless. Anthrax spores can only be seen through a microscope that magnifies 50 to 100 times.

Would I know if I breathed anthrax?


If anthrax is on the ground, can I get it from kicking up dust?

Probably not. The spores tend to clump together, so even if inhaled, they do not get deep into the lungs.

How much anthrax does it take to make someone sick?

Roughly 10,000 spores.

How common is anthrax and who can get it?

Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions where it occurs in animals. These include South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. When anthrax affects humans, it is usually due to an occupational exposure to infected animals or their products. Workers who are exposed to dead animals and animal products from other countries where anthrax is more common may become infected with B. anthracis (industrial anthrax). Anthrax in wild livestock has occurred in the United States.

How is anthrax transmitted?

Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. B. anthracis spores can live in the soil for many years, and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Anthrax can also be spread by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. It is rare to find infected animals in the United States.

What are the symptoms of anthrax?

Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but symptoms usually occur within 7 days. What does anthrax look like and how does it relate to Adrenal Fatigue? Anthrax symptoms can look similar to those of Adrenal Fatigue. This is why it is always important to consult your primary care provider.

  • Cutaneous: Most (about 95%) anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20% of untreated cases of cutaneous anthrax will result in death. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy.
  • Inhalation: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation anthrax is usually fatal.
  • Intestinal: The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25% to 60% of cases.

Where is anthrax usually found?

Anthrax can be found globally. It is more common in developing countries or countries without veterinary public health programs. Certain regions of the world (South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East) report more anthrax in animals than others.

Can anthrax be spread from person-to-person?

Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely to occur. Communicability is not a concern in managing or visiting with patients with inhalational anthrax.

Is there a way to prevent infection?

In countries where anthrax is common and vaccination levels of animal herds are low, humans should avoid contact with livestock and animal products and avoid eating meat that has not been properly slaughtered and cooked. Also, an anthrax vaccine has been licensed for use in humans. Being able to answer the question, “what does anthrax look like,” is also important. Knowing this can help prevent infection. The vaccine is reported to be 93% effective in protecting against anthrax.

What is the anthrax vaccine?

The anthrax vaccine is manufactured and distributed by BioPort, Corporation, Lansing, Michigan. The vaccine is a cell-free filtrate vaccine, which means it contains no dead or live bacteria in the preparation. The final product contains no more than 2.4 mg of aluminum hydroxide as adjuvant. Anthrax vaccines intended for animals should not be used in humans.

What does anthrax look like and Who should get vaccinated against anthrax?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommend anthrax vaccination for the following groups:

  • Persons who work directly with the organism in the laboratory
  • Persons who work with imported animal hides or furs in areas where standards are insufficient to prevent exposure to anthrax spores.
  • Persons who handle potentially infected animal products in high-incidence areas. (Incidence is low in the United States, but veterinarians who travel to work in other countries where incidence is higher should consider being vaccinated.)
  • Military personnel deployed to areas with high risk for exposure to the organism (as when it is used as a biological warfare weapon).
    The anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program in the U.S. Army Surgeon General’s Office can be reached at 1-877-GETVACC (1-877-438-8222). https://www.vaccines.mil/
  • Pregnant women should be vaccinated only if absolutely necessary.

What is the protocol for anthrax vaccination?

What does anthrax look like and are Anthrax vaccinations are recommended?Prepare yourself by being able to answer, “what does anthrax look like,” as well as for the vaccination. The immunization consists of three subcutaneous injections given 2 weeks apart followed by three additional subcutaneous injections given at 6, 12, and 18 months. Annual booster injections of the vaccine are recommended thereafter.

Are there adverse reactions to the anthrax vaccine?

Mild local reactions occur in 30% of recipients and consist of slight tenderness and redness at the injection site. Severe local reactions are infrequent and consist of extensive swelling of the forearm in addition to the local reaction. Systemic reactions occur in fewer than 0.2% of recipients. Knowing what does anthrax look like can help prevent the need for vaccination and the resulting possible side effects.

How is anthrax diagnosed?

Anthrax is diagnosed by isolating B. anthracis from the blood, skin lesions, or respiratory secretions or by measuring specific antibodies in the blood of persons with suspected cases.

Is there a treatment for anthrax?

It can be treated with antibiotics, such as Cipro or doxycycline, if given before symptoms start. Treatment usually fails once symptoms set in, since it does no good to kill the bacteria once they make large amounts of toxin.

Where do anthrax spores come from?

Anthrax bacteria live in the blood of animals. When an animal dies, the bacteria form spores, which are released.

What happens when a person breathes them?

The spores become lodged in the lungs. There, they are picked up by immune-system cells called macrophages, which carry them to the lymph nodes. On the way, the spores mature into bacteria.

How do they make people sick?

The bacteria multiply in the lymph nodes and then enter the bloodstream. They produce a poison that causes the immune system to produce lethal doses of chemicals that are ordinarily useful to the body.

How quickly does it kill?

Typically within three days of the start of symptoms.

How soon do symptoms start once people breathe the spores?

Usually around 10 days, but up to six weeks.

Is there a vaccine against anthrax?

The only vaccine is in limited supply and is now only available to the military.

How can anthrax spores be killed?

They can live for many years in the ground and resist drying, heat and ultraviolet light. They can be killed with a mixture of bleach and water or with vaporized formaldehyde.

Where would someone get anthrax?

Anthrax is grown and maintained in cell cultures that are kept by research labs. It is not sold or otherwise legally distributed. Theoretically, anthrax could be isolated and grown from the remains of an animal that died of anthrax or from near by soil. Several countries have produced large quantities of anthrax as weapons.

How long has anthrax been around?

Anthrax is thought to have been one of the Egyptian plagues at the time of Moses. The ancient Romans recorded cases.

What does anthrax look like? Depiction of anthrax under a microscope

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