Anthrax is a serious disease that can affect both animals and humans. It is caused by bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. People can get anthrax from contact with infected animals, wool, meat, or hides.
Cutaneous anthrax. In its most common form, anthrax is a skin disease that causes skin ulcers and usually fever and fatigue. Up to 20% of these cases are fatal if untreated.
Gastrointestinal anthrax. This form of anthrax can result from eating raw or undercooked infected meat. Symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, abdominal pain and swelling, and swollen lymph glands. Gastrointestinal anthrax can lead to blood poisoning, shock, and death.
Inhalation anthrax. This form of anthrax occurs when B. anthracis is inhaled, and is very serious. The first symptoms can include a sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches. Within several days these symptoms are followed by severe breathing problems, shock, and often meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord covering). This form of anthrax requires hospitalization and aggressive treatment with antibiotics. It is often fatal.
Anthrax vaccine protects against anthrax disease. The vaccine used in the United States does not contain B. anthracis cells and it does not cause anthrax. Anthrax vaccine was licensed in 1970.
Based on limited but sound evidence, the vaccine protects against both cutaneous (skin) and inhalation anthrax.
Anthrax vaccine is recommended for certain people 18 through 65 years of age who might be exposed to large amounts of B. anthracis bacteria on the job, including:
These people should get 5 doses of vaccine (in the muscle): the first dose when risk of a potential exposure is identified, and the remaining doses at 4 weeks and 6, 12, and 18 months after the first dose.
Annual booster doses are recommended for ongoing protection.
If a dose is not given at the scheduled time, the series does not have to be started over. Resume the series as soon as practical.
Anthrax vaccine is also recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to anthrax in certain situations. These people should get 3 doses of vaccine (under the skin), with the first dose as soon after exposure as possible, and the 2nd and 3rd doses given 2 and 4 weeks after the first.
Like any medicine, a vaccine could cause a serious problem, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Anthrax is a very serious disease, and the risk of serious harm from the vaccine is extremely small.
As with any vaccine, other severe problems have been reported. But these don’t appear to occur any more often among anthrax vaccine recipients than among unvaccinated people.
There is no evidence that anthrax vaccine causes long-term health problems.
Independent civilian committees have not found anthrax vaccination to be a factor in unexplained illnesses among Gulf War veterans.
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice..
A Federal program, the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, has been created under the PREP Act to help pay for medical care and other specific expenses of certain individuals who have a serious reaction to this vaccine.
If you have a reaction to the vaccine your ability to sue may be limited by law. For more information, visit the program's website, or call 1-888-275-4772.
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