Inhalational Anthrax: Threat, Clinical Presentation, and Treatment

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PURPOSETo provide nurse practitioners (NPs) with a basic understanding of clinical presentation, transmission, diagnosis, pharmacological treatment, and post-exposure prophylaxis of inhalational anthrax.DATA SOURCESSelected research and clinical articles and government guidelines.CONCLUSIONSInhalational anthrax has an incubation period of 1 to 6 days and is very difficult to diagnose early. The chest radiograph consistently reveals a widened mediastinum and pleural effusion without infiltrates. Mortality for inhalational anthrax is high, despite aggressive treatment after onset of symptoms. Delays in diagnosis contribute to the high mortality rate.IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICEThe potential use of aerosolized anthrax as a biological warfare weapon has renewed interest in inhalational anthrax. Primary care providers are cornerstones in the defense against biological weapons because they may be the first to recognize and report suspicious cases.

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