Splenic fever

Splenic fever (anthrax) is a rare bacterial infectious disease.


Splenic fever (anthrax) is a rare bacterial infectious disease. Anthrax spores are found naturally in the soil and commonly affect ungulates. People can become infected with the spores through an area of broken skin, or by inhaling them or eating contaminated products. Depending on the form, anthrax can cause a skin ulcer with a black scab, coughing/shortness of breath or blood in the stools. These symptoms should be discussed with the doctor immediately.


  • Incubation period: 1-6 days
  • Form depends on the pathway of infection
  • High mortality rate
    • Blood poisoning (sepsis)
    • In particular if anthrax affects the lungs and gastrointestinal tract
  • General symptoms
    • Moderately high fever
    • Feeling unwell
    • Disorientation, fatigue

Cutaneous (skin) anthrax (most common form)

  • Itching, painless nodules at the point of entry
  • Affected skin is swollen
  • During progression: formation of blisters, black ulcer

Inhalation (or pulmonary) anthrax

Gastrointestinal anthrax

Causes and treatment


  • Pathogen
    • Spores (inert form) of the anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis)
    • Reservoir: contaminated soil (spores can survive under the most adverse conditions)
  • Transmission
    • Grazing animals collect spores
    • Contact with infected animals or cadavers
    • Contact with infected animal products (wool, leather, meat)
    • Cutaneous anthrax: spores can enter the skin through the smallest of injuries
    • Inhalation/gastrointestinal anthrax: inhalation/eating of spores
  • Risk
    • Risk groups: farmers, veterinarians, butchers
    • Regions: South America, Africa, Central Asia, Southern and Eastern Europe
    • Use as a biological weapon (bioterrorism)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Identification of pathogen (in a special laboratory)
    • Fluid in blisters (cutaneous anthrax)
    • Phlegm produced by coughing (inhalation anthrax)
    • Stools (gastrointestinal anthrax)
  • Blood test (sepsis)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics (at an early stage, when suspicion arises)

What can I do myself?

  • Avoid contact with infected animals, their products and excretions
  • Animal cadavers
    • Avoid contact
    • Professional disposal:
    • Take to collection point for animal cadavers
    • Don’t bury
  • Letter with unknown powder
    • Don't touch, cover up if necessary
    • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
    • Immediately alert the police

When to see a doctor?

  • Skin change
    • Nodules/swelling
    • Formation of blisters/ulcer
  • Breathing problems
  • Coughing with blood
  • Blood in stools
  • In addition, recent contact with animals
  • After opening a suspicious letter

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health, FOPH (Bundesamt für Gesundheit, BAG)


splenic fever, anthrax, bioterrorism, biological weapon

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.