Anthrax Basic Information

Anthrax is not known to spread from one person to another.

Anthrax from animals.

Humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by breathing in anthrax spores from infected animal products (like wool, for example). People also can become infected with gastrointestinal anthrax by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.

Anthrax as a weapon.

Anthrax also can be used as a weapon. This happened in the United States in 2001. Anthrax was deliberately spread through the postal system by sending letters with powder containing anthrax. This caused 22 cases of anthrax infection.

Side Effects

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.

Mild Problems

Reactions on the arm where the shot was given:

  • Tenderness (about 1 person out of 2)
  • Redness (about 1 out of 7 men and 1 out of 3 women)
  • Itching (about 1 out of 50 men and 1 out of 20 women)
  • Lump (about 1 out of 60 men and 1 out of 16 women)
  • Bruise (about 1 out of 25 men and 1 out of 22 women)

Other side effects that were reported:

  • Muscle aches or temporary limitation of arm movement (about 1 out of 14 men and 1 out of 10 women)
  • Headaches (about 1 out of 25 men and 1 out of 12 women)
  • Fatigue (about 1 out of 15 men, about 1 out of 8 women)

Severe Problems

Serious allergic reaction (very rare – less than once in 100,000 doses).
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.

Who You Should Not Be Vaccinated

Some people should not get the anthrax vaccine.
Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of anthrax vaccine should not get another dose.
Anyone who has a severe allergy to any vaccine component should not get a dose. Tell your provider if you have any severe allergies, including latex.
If you have ever had Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS), your provider might recommend not getting anthrax vaccine.
If you have a moderate or severe illness your provider might ask you to wait until you recover to get the vaccine. People with a mild illness can usually be vaccinated.
Vaccination may be recommended for pregnant women who have been exposed to anthrax and are at risk of developing inhalation disease. Nursing mothers may safely be given anthrax vaccine.

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