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What Is Anthrax?  

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria. It can occur in humans when they have been exposed to contaminated animals or tissue from these animals.

Different types of anthrax infections can occur. These include:

  • Skin infection causing:
    • Skin ulcers
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal infection causing:
    • Fever
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Sore throat
    • Abdominal pain and swelling
    • Swollen lymph glands
  • Inhaled infection—this is the most serious form and can cause:
    • Sore throat
    • Fever
    • Muscle aches
    • Breathing problems
    • Shock
    • Brain inflammation

Anthrax is treated with antibiotics. All forms of anthrax can be fatal, especially if not treated.

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What Is the Anthrax Vaccine?  

The anthrax vaccine protects against anthrax. It does not contain cells that cause anthrax.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?  

The following people aged 18 to 65 years should get vaccinated. Those who:

  • Are lab workers who may come into contact with the bacteria that causes anthrax
  • Certain people who handle animals and animal products
  • Certain people in the military who risk exposure to anthrax as a biological warfare weapon

These people should get 5 doses of the vaccine in the muscle. The first dose should be given when there is risk of exposure. The other 4 doses should be given at 4 weeks and 6, 12, and 18 months after the first dose.

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What Are the Risks Associated With the Anthrax Vaccine?  

Risks associated with the anthrax vaccine include:

  • Common, mild side effects include a reaction at the injection site—Soreness, redness, itching, a lump, or a bruise
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Rare, but serious risks include a serious allergic reaction—This condition is usually associated with anaphylaxis , which is an extreme allergic response.
  • Other serious adverse events may also occur.
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Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?  

Those who should not get vaccinated include:

  • Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of anthrax vaccine or any vaccine component
  • People with Guillain Barré syndrome
  • Those who are very sick
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What Other Ways Can Anthrax Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?  

You can prevent anthrax if you:

  • Take precautions when dealing with animals or animal products that could possibly be contaminated the bacteria that causes anthrax.
  • Begin a course of antibiotic treatment if you have been exposed to anthrax.
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What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?  

It is not believed that anthrax can be spread from person to person. If an outbreak occurred and a large number of people were exposed to the bacteria, the US would give antibiotics and vaccines to everyone who was exposed.