• Respiratory Anthrax It had been more than 20 years since a case had been seen but, based on this, it is thought it can be as many as 60 days after the spores are inhaled before symptoms occur, when caused by bioterrorism rather than natural causes. The incubation period is usually 1 to 6 days. It starts with symptoms that mimic the flu, or an acute exacerbation of COPD. There is mild fever, fatigue, dry or non-productive cough, along with some chest and abdominal pain. If you get these symptoms how can you tell what it is causing you to feel this way? You can't! You do the same thing you would do if there weren't any bioterrorism scare. You use your common sense and call your physician immediately. Your physician will know what tests to use, and what treatment is appropriate. None of our readers should ignore any of these symptoms at any time, even if we were not in the midst of a terrorist threat. All respiratory patients should practice early intervention to avoid a serious illness.
  • The second stage of respiratory anthrax starts 2 to 3 days later with an abrupt increase in fever, acute shortness of breath, sweating and cyanosis, which is a blue tinge to the nail beds and lips. Remember, even respiratory anthrax can be cured if treatment is started in the first few days of symptoms. Again, it is important to get an early evaluation of any of your symptoms.
  • Skin anthrax. The incubation period is usually one to seven days after contact, with 5 days being average. The skin lesions are painless but may tingle or itch. They usually appear on the hands or exposed surfaces of the skin. Initially it is described as a puritic papule. That means an itchy pimple. After the second day vesicles, or redness, appear around this area along with non-pitting edema. There is a low grade fever and fatigue. It looks like a bad spider bite, such as the one from a brown recluse spider. When the pimple ruptures it looks like an ulcer with a black scab in the middle. This scab falls off in one to two weeks with little scarring. It is easily treated with antibiotics and we are sure that no one with such symptoms would hesitate to seek medical attention! Treatment with antibiotics is usually 7 to 10 days for naturally occurring skin anthrax but 60 days for anything acquired as a result of bioterrorism.
  • Prevention
  • Hand washing, hand washing and more washing of the hands is your number one defense against respiratory infections of any kind, as well as against skin anthrax.
  • Antibiotics should never be used without a physician's okay. Save them for when you really need them. Don't use them unnecessarily and develop an immunity. Besides, you can get side effects.
  • There is a lot more information out there and we keep learning new things all the time. The summary above is not meant to provide all of the answers, but we did want to cover a few of the details that are especially pertinent for respiratory patients. Watch your TV and newspaper for additional details and please call your physician for any symptoms that last more than a day.