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Can Anthrax be prevented and are there treatment options?

Updated December 29, 2023

Yes, anthrax can be prevented by avoiding items that may be contaminated with anthrax. All forms of anthrax are treatable if caught early. Persons most at risk for complications from anthrax are those who do not receive antibiotics quickly. 

Persons exposed to anthrax but who have no symptoms are recommended to receive a 60 days course of treatment with antibiotics that include doxycycline and ciprofloxacin.  Outcomes are better if persons receive prompt treatment as soon as symptoms develop.  When taking long-term antibiotic therapy, it is important to be aware of potential side effects. 

There are also three licensed anthrax antitoxins available for use from the Strategic National Stockpile - anthrax immune globulin intravenous (AIGIV), obiltoxaximab (Anthim), and raxibacumab (ABthrax). Side effects from these products are provided in the product insert kept on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.     

Outcomes for Treated Anthrax: The mortality rate for skin-acquired anthrax left untreated is five to 20 percent but very low with antibiotic therapy.  Fifty-five percent of persons exposed to anthrax by inhalation during the 2001 bioterrorism attack in the U.S. survived. There is only a 10 to 15 percent survival rate from inhalation anthrax without treatment.    The mortality rate for gastrointestinal anthrax is between 25 and 60 percent, and 33 percent for injection anthrax.    

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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