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Pediatric Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.

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Table 4.4a.  Diagnostic Tests for Anthrax

Anthrax Type

Diagnostic Tests


Vesicular fluid and blood culture (anaerobic and aerobic)


Blood culture, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), chest radiograph, computer tomography (CT) scan


Blood culture

Table 4.4b. Adjunctive Diagnostic Tests for Anthrax

Test Comments
Complete Blood Count (CBC)

White blood cell (WBC) count may be normal or slightly increased.

Increased neutrophils or band forms common.

Leukopenia or lymphocytosis does not support diagnosis of anthrax.

Chest radiograph Frequently abnormal in inhalational anthrax; may show signs of mediastinal widening, paratracheal or hilar fullness, pleural effusions, pulmonary infiltrates (uni- or multilobar), and mediastinal lymphadenopathy; changes may be subtle and better defined on chest CT.
Nasal swab May assist in epidemiologic investigations but should not be relied on as a guide for prophylaxis or treatment of individual patients.

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