What Is Anthrax?
Anthrax is life-threatening disease. Its bacteria and spores get into the body and release toxins. It can also come from infected livestock, their products, and the environment.
Symptoms depend on how anthrax enters the body.
Skin infection causing:
- Skin ulcers
Gastrointestinal infection causing:
- Sore throat
- Belly pain and swelling
- Swollen lymph glands
Inhaled infection—this is the most serious form and can cause:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Breathing problems
- Brain inflammation
Antibiotics treat anthrax. All forms of anthrax can be fatal, especially if not treated.
What Is the Anthrax Vaccine?
The anthrax vaccine protects against anthrax. It does not contain cells that cause anthrax.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The vaccine is for those who are aged 18-65 years old and:
- Work with livestock and their products
- Work with the bacteria
- Are in the military
There are 5 doses given as a shot. You get the first dose when there is risk of exposure. The next 4 doses come at 4 weeks, then 6, 12, and 18 months after the first one.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Anthrax Vaccine?
Risks associated with the anthrax vaccine include:
- Common, mild side effects, such as a reaction at the injection site—soreness, redness, itching, a lump, or a bruise
- Rare, but serious risks include a serious allergic reaction— anaphylaxis
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Don't get the vaccine if you have:
- A history of an allergic reaction to anthrax vaccines
- Or had Guillain-Barré syndrome
- A serious illness
What Other Ways Can Anthrax Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
To lower your chances of anthrax:
- Avoid contact with infected livestock and their products.
- Avoid touching anthrax wounds.
- Handle suspicious mail and packages carefully.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
Public health officials will work quickly to find the source of anthrax. Anthrax testing and antibiotics can help to prevent infection in other people.
Anthrax has no color, odor, or taste. If you think you came in contact with it, seek medical care right away.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Anthrax immune globulin. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T908954/Anthrax-Immune-Globulin. Updated January 24, 2017. Accessed May 16, 2018.
Anthrax vaccine absorbed. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907429/Anthrax-Vaccine-Adsorbed. Updated April 18, 2018. Accessed May 16, 2018.
Anthrax VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/anthrax.html. Updated March 21, 2018. Accessed May 16, 2018.
Products approved for anthrax. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm063485.htm. Updated February 26, 2018. Accessed May 16, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 5/16/2018