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29 April 2014

Paediatricians should prepare for anthrax attack

Paediatricians need to be knowledgeable and prepared in order to minimize illness and death in the event of an anthrax attack.

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Children may require different treatment than adults after exposure to anthrax, says a new report from leading US paediatricians and health officials.

Because of the danger posed by anthrax – a potential bioterrorism weapon – paediatricians need to be knowledgeable and prepared in order to minimize illness and death in the event of an anthrax release, says the report from the American Academy of Paediatrics and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read: Anthrax vaccine to be tested on children

Anthrax, an infectious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis bacteria, can cause thousands of infections with a high death rate if not quickly recognized and treated.

Diagnosis and management

It's important that diagnosis and management of children with potential anthrax infection is handled by their paediatricians and others who normally provide them with health care, said the report, published online in the journal Paediatrics.

Public health officials will provide antibiotics for infants and children exposed to airborne anthrax spores during a bioterror attack. If started within 72 hours of exposure, antibiotics can prevent disease, the authors explained.

Anthrax can enter the body through cuts and other openings in the skin, by breathing it in, or through the gastrointestinal tract. The health experts said all forms of entry can lead to systemic infection, which is generally not contagious. In these cases, standard precautions should be taken in routine patient care, they advised.

Along with treating patients, paediatricians have an important role in helping families understand and comply with treatments, the authors added.

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