Anthrax is a disease caused by infection with spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus anthracis, which occur naturally in soil. These bacteria most often infect animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, deer, antelope, and other herbivores. Anthrax disease can occur in people who are exposed to an infected animal or other source of anthrax bacteria.

Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions lacking in good veterinary prevention programs, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Southeastern Europe. Although less common, anthrax does occur in the United States among both wild game animals and domestic livestock.

Anthrax is spread to a human through the skin, the stomach, or the lungs. The bacteria can enter the skin through a cut or wound that comes into contact with products from an infected animal (such as meat, wool, hide, or hair). Infection can also occur through the lungs when a person inhales the bacterial spore, or through the stomach when a person eats undercooked meat from an infected animal. Anthrax is a serious disease that can spread quickly throughout the body and it is fatal in a high number of cases, especially when acquired through the lungs.

Anthrax vaccine is used to help prevent anthrax disease in adults. Anthrax vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.

Anthrax vaccine is used before exposure in people who may come into contact with anthrax bacteria in certain work settings, while traveling, or during military service. Anthrax vaccine is used together with antibiotics after exposure in people who have already come into contact with anthrax bacteria.

This vaccine works by exposing you to an antigen protein that causes your body to develop immunity to the disease. Anthrax vaccine does not contain live or killed forms of the bacteria that causes anthrax.

Like any vaccine, the anthrax vaccine may not provide protection from disease in every person.

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  • Biothrax
  • More common:
    Pain, redness, tenderness, or limited movement of the arm where the injection is given
    Less common:
    Swollen, painful, or tender lymph glands in the neck, armpit, or groin
    Incidence not known:
    Blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
    difficulty with swallowing
    fast heartbeat
    hives or welts
    joint or muscle pain
    large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
    puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
    red skin lesions, often with a purple center
    red, irritated eyes
    redness of the skin
    shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
    shortness of breath
    skin rash
    sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
    trembling or shaking of the hands or feet
    unusual tiredness or weakness
    Severity: Minor
    Some of the side effects that can occur with anthrax vaccine adsorbed may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

    More common:
    muscle aches and pains
    Incidence not known:
    Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
    dark-colored urine
    difficulty with moving
    feeling of warmth
    hair loss or thinning of the hair
    muscle cramps or spasms
    muscle pain or stiffness
    redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
    swollen joints
    trouble sleeping
  • (subcutaneous suspension)