​​Anthrax


Anthrax is a rare disease that is caused by spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthraces, a germ that lives in the soil. It usually affects animals, livestock and wild-life more so than humans. It is transmitted to humans by the bacteria entering through an open wound, by eating the meat of an infected animal or by inhaling the bacteria spores.  ​

Signs and symptoms of Anthrax vary depending on how it enters the body. Anthrax can enter through four routes and usually takes around seven days for symptoms to show, except in the case of inhalation.

  • Cutaneous Anthrax

This type of Anthrax enters your body through an open wound and can be easily treated by simple medications. It is by far the mildest form of anthrax and is not fatal. The symptoms include an itchy rash or bump at the place where the bacteria entered the body and looks similar to an insect bite. It quickly turns into a painless sore with a black centre.

  • Gastrointestinal Anthrax

This occurs when eating uncooked meat from an infected animal. The symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headache

  • Pain in the abdomen

  • Loss of appetite

  • Sore throat and difficulty in swallowing

  • Stiff and swollen neck

  • Fever

  • Severe diarrhoea

  • Inhalation Anthrax​

This type of anthrax occurs when you have inhaled an infected spore. This is the most dangerous form of anthrax and can be fatal if not properly treated. 

Symptoms may include:

  • Symptoms mimicking flu, such as sore throat, mild fever, fatigue and muscle aches, which may last a few hours or days

  • Nausea

  • Mild chest discomfort

  • Painful swallowing

  • Coughing up blood 

  • Shortness of breath​

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Shock

  • High fever

  • Trouble breathing

  • Meningitis — a life-threatening inflammation of the brain and spinal cord​​

If you experience any of the above symptoms and suspect that you may have been exposed to or if you work in an environment where anthrax is likely present, seek medical advice immediately. Make an appointment to consult with our expert doctors in the Internal Medicine​ Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital. 

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Anthrax can be diagnosed with the following tests:
  • Blood test: to check for the presence of the anthrax bacteria.

  • Skin test: fluid or small tissue from the skin maybe tested for cutaneous anthrax.

  • X-ray or CT scan (computed tomography): to help in diagnosing inhalation anthrax as it gives imaging of the lungs and breathing path-ways.

  • Stool test: to help in diagnosing gastrointestinal anthrax.

  • Spinal tap: this is usually done to confirm the presence of the bacteria in your spinal cord. This step is only taken when Anthrax has progressed to the last stage and has progressed to meningitis

Anthrax can be treated with a combination of antibiotics depending on the area of the body infected.  In the case of inhaled anthrax, it may be more difficult to treat and when the disease has progressed, treatment becomes ineffective and it can be fatal.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.