Reviewed: August 2011
Anthrax is a disease caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Although it can occur naturally when humans are exposed to infected animals or animal parts, anthrax spores can be used as a biological weapon. No case of anthrax related to bioterrorism has occurred in Canada.
There are three types of anthrax infection:
A person infected with anthrax cannot pass anthrax to another person.
The symptoms of anthrax differ depending on the type of the disease:
Symptoms of anthrax could take up to 60 days to show, although most people will not become ill unless they are exposed to a large number of spores.
If you suspect that you or anyone has been exposed to anthrax or has received a suspicious package, immediately dial 9-1-1 (emergency services). Emergency services personnel will assess the situation and advise you on what to do next.
Antibiotics are effective against all three types of anthrax infection.
Yes. You can take antibiotics if you have been exposed to anthrax spores to prevent illness. The antibiotics most commonly used for preventing illness are ciprofloxacin and doxycycline.
Anthrax vaccine is not a licensed vaccine in Canada and therefore not available. The vaccine currently available and in use by the United States military has numerous side effects and requires multiple doses to maintain immunity. Research is underway to develop a better and safer vaccine.
While there have not been any cases of intentional anthrax release in our city or anywhere in Canada, we still need to be prepared.
TPH works with Toronto Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services to coordinate protocols, clarify our respective roles and functions to ensure smooth inter-agency cooperation when dealing with a potential case of anthrax or any other biological agent. We are also in consultation with provincial and federal health authorities and colleagues in various jurisdictions.
For more information call 416-338-7600, TTY 416-392-0658.