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Two doctors holding multiple xrays up to a light board, working together to make a diagnosisDoctors in the United States rarely see a patient with anthrax. CDC guidance and case definitions are available to help doctors diagnose anthrax, take patient histories to determine how exposure may have occurred, and order necessary diagnostic tests.

If inhalation anthrax is suspected, chest X-rays or CT scans can confirm if the patient has mediastinal widening or pleural effusion, which are X-ray findings typically seen in patients with inhalation anthrax.
The only ways to confirm an Anthrax diagnosis are:

  • To measure antibodies or toxin in blood
  • To test directly for Bacillus anthracis in a sample
    • blood
    • skin lesion swab
    • spinal fluid
    • respiratory secretions

Samples must be taken before the patient begins taking antibiotics for treatment.