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Anthrax is a serious illness. It can affect both humans and animals. Anthrax can be transmitted through infected animal products. It has, in the past, been used as a weapon.
Anthrax is caused by a type of bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. There are three types of anthrax related illnesses:
Vaccination can reduce the risk of cutaneous (skin) disease and inhalation disease. Aggressive antibiotic therapy may be able to cure some anthrax cases.
The anthrax vaccine is not available to the public. It’s used for people whose jobs put them at high risk of anthrax exposure like:
The anthrax vaccine is only provided to high-risk adults between the ages of 18 and 65.
It’s administered in five doses. The first dose should be injected into the muscle as soon as exposure risk is identified. The next four doses should be given:
Yearly booster shots can be given if ongoing protection is needed.
In certain cases, people with known anthrax exposures are vaccinated. These people are given three doses of vaccine under their skin. The second and third doses are given at two and four weeks.
Individuals who are advised not to get the anthrax vaccine include:
Pregnant women should not be vaccinated unless they are at risk of inhalation anthrax. Nursing mothers can be vaccinated safely.
Severe allergic reactions to this vaccine are very rare. They occur in less than one out of every 100,000 doses. However, mild and moderate side effects are quite common. These include:
Recognizing an Allergic Reaction
Any severe allergic reaction would likely occur within an hour of vaccination. Symptoms include:
These symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Written by: Amy Boulanger
Medically reviewed on: Nov 17, 2014: Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD
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