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Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. Infection most often occurs in the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, or the lungs. Humans can acquire anthrax through inhalation of spores or contact with animal hides or hair, bone products, and wool, as well as contact with infected animals.
Anthrax is a potential agent for use as a biological weapon or bioterrorism. However, most bioterrorism experts believe that it is technologically difficult to use anthrax effectively as a weapon on a large scale. For individuals who have been exposed to anthrax (but have no signs and symptoms of the disease), preventive antibiotics may be offered, such as ciprofloxacin, penicillin, or doxycycline, depending on the particular strain of anthrax. Vaccination has also been developed and is given in a 6-dose series. This vaccine is mandated for all U.S. military personnel. It is currently not available, nor is it recommended, for use in the general public.