Anthrax is an infection caused by bacteria. It can be life threatening.
There are three forms of human anthrax, depending on where anthrax enters the body:
- Inhaled—from breathing airborne spores into the lungs
- Cutaneous (or skin)—due to spores entering a cut or break in the skin (most common)
- Gastrointestinal—from ingesting spores in raw or undercooked food
Once anthrax is in the body, it multiplies and releases toxins. The toxins cause swelling, bleeding, and tissue death. All forms of anthrax can cause death but inhaled anthrax has a much higher mortality rate once symptoms develop.
Anthrax Can Enter the Body Through the Lungs
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Anthrax is caused by exposure to a specific bacteria or its spores. These spores are created by the bacteria and can survive in the environment for decades. The bacteria and spores can be found in the soil and livestock like cattle and goats. It is rare but people can contract anthrax from:
- Infected animals
- Infected animal products
- Spores in environment
Last reviewedJune 2013by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.