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Conn Med. 2002 May;66(5):261-7.

Fatal case of inhalational anthrax mimicking intra-abdominal sepsis.

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Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, MA 02747, USA.


In this report, we discuss the second fatal case of inhalational anthrax related to the use of Bacillus anthracis spores as a biological weapon in the United States. This case highlights two of the major characteristics of inhalational anthrax: the fulminating nature of the infection and the difficulty of promptly establishing a diagnosis. In the patient discussed here, gastrointestinal symptoms and findings were so impressive that the patient was thought to have a primary intra-abdominal condition. In the current situation, in which bioterrorism is a real threat, any patient presenting with a flulike or gastrointestinal illness should be queried about their occupation. Anyone with evidence of systemic disease who resides or works in a geographical region where anthrax cases are occurring should be treated until the diagnosis of anthrax is excluded. In the United States, the group that is at high risk for anthrax has shifted from rural farm workers to city dwellers, especially postal workers and public figures.

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