Inhalational Anthrax

Picture of inhalational anthrax

Anthrax spores enter the respiratory system when they are inhaled through the nose or mouth. Larger spores may settle in the windpipe (trachea). The immune system reacts by trying to destroy the spores. Some spores may escape and travel to the lymph nodes located in the chest. Smaller spores travel farther down the respiratory tract and invade tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. There, the spores germinate and cause an active bacterial infection.

The anthrax bacteria start multiplying in 1 to 60 days. After the bacteria infect chest tissue, the disease rapidly progresses. Toxins from the bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, causing severe damage to tissue, lungs, and other organs. The infection is difficult to treat after it enters the bloodstream.

Current as ofJuly 30, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Leslie A. Tengelsen, PhD, DVM - Epidemiology

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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