Inhaled anthrax mortality rate can drop, study finds

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Inhaled anthrax is a treatable infection and not a sure death sentence if doctors recognize the disease early and treat it aggressively, experts say in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

An analysis in JAMA of the 10 recent cases shows that if doctors speedily give patients a constellation of antibiotics, along with aggressively treating symptoms such as the accumulation of fluid in the chest, there is a high rate of survival.

"The fact that six of these patients have survived gives hope that the published mortality rates of 86 to 97 percent for inhalational anthrax may not be accurate in the year 2001," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, both of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in the JAMA editorial.

The rate of survival -- 60 percent for the recent inhalational cases -- could well improve for future infections because doctors across the country now are so aware of anthrax and its symptoms.

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