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Published On: Fri, Mar 8th, 2013

Suffolk heroin user dies from anthrax

A Suffolk, England injectable drug user is the latest fatal case in the European anthrax outbreak that has been linked to contaminated heroin, according to a Health Protection Agency (HPA) press release Mar. 8.

Bacillus anthracis

Anthrax Image/CIA

The ongoing outbreak of anthrax among people who inject drugs in several European countries now stands at 14 cases  since the outbreak began in early June 2012.

The latest case in Suffolk brings the total number affected in the UK to seven – five in England (including four fatalities), one in Scotland and one in Wales. In addition, four case have been reported in Germany, two in Denmark and one in France, although it is not clear whether the cases are linked.

Health officials continue to monitor the situation in Europe.

“It is possible that further cases may be seen in people who inject heroin. People who use drugs may become infected with anthrax when the heroin they use is contaminated with anthrax spores. This could be a source of infection if injected, smoked or snorted – there is no safe route for consuming heroin or other drugs that may be contaminated with anthrax spores”, Dr Chris Williams, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control at the HPA noted.

Dr Chris Williams continues;

“In light of this recent case in Suffolk, we have advised local agencies to talk to their service users who inject drugs about the risk of anthrax infection.

“People who inject drugs often experience a skin infection but we strongly advise them not to ignore signs such as redness or excessive swelling around injection sites or other symptoms of general illness such a high temperature, chills, severe headaches or breathing difficulties. They should seek medical advice quickly in such circumstances but particularly now as there are concerns that some batches of heroin in circulation may be contaminated with anthrax. Early treatment with antibiotics is essential for a successful recovery.”

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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