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  • Health officials issue guidance for providers in diagnosing Anthrax in Injecting Drug Users

    Posted on October 6th, 2013 TimB No comments

    The aim of this guidance is to assist clinicians in Ireland in clinical and microbiological assessment of suspected cases of infection with B. anthracis in IDUs. Due to the nature of the infection in heroin users, clinicians should consider the following as possible presentations of anthrax and discuss the case immediately with their local microbiologist.


  • Suffolk (UK) patient with anthrax takes total in England to five cases

    Posted on March 10th, 2013 TimB 1 comment

    The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is aware that a person who injected heroin has been diagnosed with anthrax infection in Suffolk and has died.

    There is an ongoing outbreak of anthrax among people who inject drugs in a number of countries in Europe with 13 cases now identified since 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. The source is presumed to be contaminated heroin.

    It is unclear as yet whether these recent cases are linked to the cases in Europe (four in Germany, two in Denmark and one in France) but the HPA is continuing to monitor the situation.

    The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have concluded that heroin users in Europe are still at risk of exposure to anthrax.

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  • Having anthrax didn’t make me think I should stop taking heroin’

    Posted on September 14th, 2012 TimB No comments

    When Cath injected herself with heroin, unaware it had been contaminated by anthrax, her wrist immediately began to swell and turn red. The pain was shocking. But she felt only anger and irritation.

    “I wanted my usual buzz,” she said. “I’d been a heroin addict for 23 years. I knew I’d spiked my vein properly. I couldn’t understand why the gear wasn’t working.”

    So she injected herself a second time. This time her entire arm swelled up. The red turned to purple. It spread up towards her elbow and down towards her fingers. The pain intensified but the drug high still didn’t come.

    It was 2010 and Cath had infected herself with anthrax at the height of the largest single common-source outbreak of human anthrax in the UK in more than 50 years. The deaths spread across Europe: 126 cases were eventually identified, including 119 in the UK. At least 14 people died.

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  • Health chiefs confirm case of anthrax in Scotland

    Posted on July 25th, 2012 TimB No comments

    A drug user in Lanarkshire has contracted the deadly anthrax bacteria, health authorities have confirmed.

    Details of the patient have not been disclosed but they are known to be an injection heroin user.

    The patient is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

    Public health experts fear that a batch of heroin infected with anthrax is in circulation in Lanarkshire and elsewhere in Scotland.

    Dr David Cromie, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “It is possible that heroin contaminated with anthrax may be circulating in Lanarkshire and potentially other parts of Scotland. There have been recent reports of anthrax from contaminated heroin in other Western European Countries, the most recent reported outbreak being in Germany.

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  • Anthrax infection in injecting drug uses: risk assessment update

    Posted on July 19th, 2012 TimB 1 comment

    As of 10 July 2012, two new cases of anthrax have been reported among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Denmark and France in addition to three cases in Germany. Reported dates of onset in all five cases range between early June 2012 and 11 July 2012. The patient in Denmark died on 8 July. ECDC and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have updated their risk assessment according to this new information.

    The first two cases from Germany are likely linked through exposure to heroin contaminated by a most likely identical Bacillus anthracis strain. The third German case cannot be confirmed although there is also some laboratory evidence that the strain could be identical with the outbreak strain. The link of the remaining two cases, though probable, needs to be confirmed through molecular typing.

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  • Anthrax team raises heroin supply issue

    Posted on January 6th, 2012 TimB No comments

    A repor into an anthrax outbreak which killed 14 heroin addicts suggests officials should consider prescribing the drug during any future contaminations.

    The National Anthrax Outbreak Control Team (NAOCT) claims the Scottish Government could “usefully give this aspect further consideration” as guidance on the issue would be helpful for Outbreak Control Teams (OCTs) and addiction services.

    Report author Dr Colin Ramsay, chairman of NAOCT, said prescribing heroin was suggested as a control strategy during the year-long outbreak – which began in Glasgow in December 2009 – but NAOCT considered the suggestion to be outwith its remit.

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  • Anthrax deaths expose addicts’ plight

    Posted on July 11th, 2010 TimB No comments

    After 13 deaths from infected heroin, drug counsellors slam ‘demonisation’ that stops users getting better treatment

    A spate of deaths among heroin users whose drugs were contaminated with anthrax has highlighted how addicts are “demonised” and struggle to get treatment, according to experts.

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  • Epidemiological update: Anthrax outbreak among drug users in UK and Germany

    Posted on April 19th, 2010 TimB No comments

    A total of 33 cases of anthrax infection have been confirmed in Scotland since the beginning of December 2009 among heroin users, including 11 fatal cases; the latest case was reported on 12 April 2010 from the Lothian NHS board and is alive.

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  • Anthrax warning over illegal drugs – Galloway Scotland

    Posted on February 25th, 2010 TimB No comments
    Drug users in Galloway are in danger of contracting the killer disease anthrax after the first case was confirmed this week in Dumfries.On Tuesday, an NHS Dumfries and Galloway official said: “We can confirm that the male was admitted to DGRI last Tuesday, February 16, and transferred for further treatment to Glasgow Royal Infirmary on Sunday night.”

  • Anthrax fears mean more methadone

    Posted on February 25th, 2010 TimB No comments
    The Scottish Government has sanctioned an increase in methadone programmes across the country to halt the spread of anthrax among injecting drug users.

    The outbreak has already claimed ten lives in Scotland, prompting an increase in demand for drug treatment services from heroin addicts desperate to avoid potentially infected needles.

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