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Medications and Drugs

Brand Names: Biothrax

Generic Name: anthrax vaccine (Pronunciation: ANTH rax vax EEN)

What is anthrax vaccine (Biothrax)?

Anthrax is a disease caused by infection with a spore-forming bacteria. It usually occurs in animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, deer, antelope, and other herbivores. Anthrax can also occur in people who are exposed to an infected animal or other source of the anthrax bacteria.

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

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.

The anthrax vaccine is used to help prevent this disease in people exposed to the bacteria through the skin or lungs. 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.

Anthrax vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.

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

What are the possible side effects of anthrax vaccine (Biothrax)?

You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first shot.

Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving this vaccine. When you receive a booster dose, you will need to tell the doctor if the previous shots caused any side effects.

Becoming infected with anthrax is much more dangerous to your health than receiving the vaccine to protect against it. Like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects, but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect (some are rare but serious) such as:

  • severe swelling or a hard lump where the shot was given;
  • severe swelling spreading to other parts of your arm;
  • fever, chills, body aches, nausea, flu symptoms;
  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding;
  • confusion, changes in mood or behavior;
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • blistering, redness, and swelling or warmth of the skin;
  • weakness, numbness or tingly feeling in your feet spreading upward;
  • problems with vision, hearing, speech, swallowing, or bladder and bowel functions;
  • severe lower back pain; or
  • slow heart rate, trouble breathing, weak pulse, or feeling like you might pass out.

Less serious side effects include:

  • mild redness, warmth, itching, or tenderness where the shot was given;
  • low fever;
  • feeling tired or weak;
  • headache, dizziness;
  • mild pain or stiffness in the injected arm;
  • joint or muscle pain;
  • swelling in your hands or feet; or
  • mild skin rash.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is the most important information I should know about anthrax vaccine (Biothrax)?

You should not receive this vaccine if you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to an anthrax vaccine, or if you have ever had anthrax disease acquired through the skin.

Before receiving this vaccine, tell the doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, or if you have a weak immune system, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, if you are allergic to latex rubber, if you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation, or if you have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

You can still receive a vaccine if you have a cold or mild fever. In the case of a more severe illness with a high fever or any type of infection, wait until you get better before receiving this vaccine.

Before receiving anthrax vaccine, tell the doctor about all other vaccines you have recently received. Also tell the doctor if you have recently received drugs or treatments that can weaken the immune system, such as steroids, psoriasis or arthritis medications, medicines to treat or prevent organ transplant rejection, or chemotherapy or radiation treatments. You may not be able to receive the anthrax vaccine, or may need to wait until the other treatments are finished.

Becoming infected with anthrax is much more dangerous to your health than receiving the vaccine to protect against it. Like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects, but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Anthrax vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.



Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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