Elk Grove Village, IL—(ENEWSPF)—April 28, 2014. Anthrax, an infection caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis, can be easily dispersed, has the potential to infect thousands with high mortality if not quickly recognized and treated, and remains a threat as spores in the environment for years. Anthrax exposure is very rare, but if a bioterror exposure occurs, health care providers need to be prepared to diagnose and treat children, as well as provide guidance to families.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have released a new clinical report, “Pediatric Anthrax Clinical Management,” and executive summary in the May 2014 Pediatrics (published online April 28). The CDC and the AAP collaborated on the report to provide health care providers with the latest science and expert recommendations for the care of children in an anthrax release.
These recommendations are significant, because the unique characteristics of children dictate clinical recommendations that may be different from those in adults. It is important that the diagnosis and management is in the hands of pediatricians and others providing health care to children with potential anthrax infection. Anthrax can occur in many different clinical forms, including cutaneous, inhalation, and gastrointestinal, and all can progress to systemic disease. Systemic infection is generally not contagious, and standard precautions should be taken in routine patient care. For infants and children exposed to aerosolized anthrax spores during a bioterror attack, antibiotic therapy will be provided by public health authorities, and if started within 72 hours of exposure, can prevent disease.
The report’s authors conclude that the nature of the pathogen, and fairly rapid progression to serious, life-threatening conditions, requires that pediatricians be well-informed and prepared in advance, so they can minimize morbidity and mortality from an anthrax release. While the distribution of anthrax countermeasures, such as antimicrobials and vaccine, will emanate from the public health and disaster response sector, pediatricians will play an important role in supporting families in their understanding of and compliance with treatment recommendations and addressing their concerns regarding diagnosis and management of anthrax disease through the medical home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.