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Published On: Tue, Jan 8th, 2013

Anthrax

  • Anthrax is an infectious disease due to a type of bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. Infection in humans most often involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs.
  • Anthrax is a serious bacterial infection and is not contagious;
  • The most common way to become infected is through the skin by direct exposure to an infected animal, or animal waste and by-products or contaminated soil
  • Veterinarians, farmers or researchers working with animals are at higher risk of being infected by anthrax;
  • Anthrax can enter the bloodstream from a cut in the skin, inhaling anthrax spores into the lungs, or by swallowing anthrax spores;
  • If left untreated with antibiotics, lethal toxins from the anthrax bacteria can multiply in the body and kill quickly;
  • The mortality rate for skin acquired anthrax that is untreated is 10 to 20 percent but very low if antibiotic therapy is begun promptly;
  • The mortality rate for anthrax acquired by inhaling into the lungs or through the gastrointestinal tract is much higher.

Anthrax Vaccine

  • Anthrax vaccine is licensed for use in adults between the ages of 18 and 65, who are at high risk for exposure to anthrax bacteria;
  • There is no anthrax vaccine licensed for use in children and the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women;
  • BioThrax anthrax vaccine manufactured by Emergent BioSolutions is required for U.S. soldiers and adult military service personnel;
  • A series of five shots are given and individuals are not considered protected until they have the full series;
  • Not all individuals who receive anthrax vaccine may be protected and there is very limited data on effectiveness of the vaccine for inhalation anthrax;
  • Reported mild to moderate anthrax vaccine reactions include local swelling, pain and redness at the injection site, fever, chills and nausea that resolve without permanent damage;
  • Reported serious anthrax vaccine reactions involve autoimmune and brain dysfunction, including chronic disabling fatigue, persistent headaches, severe joint pain and crippling arthritis, numbness and muscle weakness, paralysis, brain inflammation, seizures, permanent memory loss and death.

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