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Who is at Highest Risk for Getting Anthrax?

Updated December 29, 2023


Exposure to anthrax most commonly occurs via contact with an infected animal or animal waste and by-products. Veterinarians, farmers, or researchers working with animals are at higher risk, as well as occupations that require the handling of animal by-products like meat and animal skins. Most cases of cutaneous anthrax resolve without treatment, and only between five and 20 percent of untreated cutaneous anthrax cases are fatal. With treatment, nearly all exposed persons survive. Ninety-five percent of all anthrax cases are cutaneous anthrax. 

Traveling to areas where anthrax is more common can also place persons at a higher risk for developing anthrax infection. These regions include the Caribbean, Eastern and Southern Europe, Central and southwestern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Central America. Persons who travel to these regions should be cautious about the foods consumed and items they touch. 


Primary concerns regarding the use of anthrax for bioterrorism attacks are in part due to attacks launched in 1993  and 2001  - see History of Anthrax in America for more information.

If used as a biological weapon to kill large numbers of people, it will most likely be used in the deadly aerosol form so that large numbers of people will inhale it. This will mean that the anthrax strain and size of spores will have to be designed explicitly for weapons purposes and will require an effective delivery system. 

To date, there has never been a successful delivery of inhalation anthrax to any large population through a bomb, missile, crop duster, or any other means; however, government agencies have plans in place should an attack occur.    

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC “Quick Facts” is not a substitute for becoming fully informed about anthrax and the anthrax vaccine. NVIC recommends consumers read comprehensive information NVIC provides on anthrax, the vaccine manufacturer product information inserts, and speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child.

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