Anthrax in heroin users in UK and Europe

Anthrax related to contaminated heroin supplies 2012

The recent death of a confirmed case of anthrax in an IDU in Blackpool (August 2012) and a confirmed case recently in Lanarkshire  follows five cases reported in the previous two months in Europe - three in Germany, one in Denmark and one in France. It is thought that these cases are due to exposure to heroin contaminated with Bacillus anthracis.

 The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have updated their joint rapid risk assesment which concludes that further cases among IDU may be identified in the near future.
It is important that those services in contact with drug users mainatin awareness of anthrax, and also of other severe infections caused by spore-forming bacteria in those at risk through injecting drug use. The PHPU recently wrote (25th July) to all GPs and relevant colleagues highlighting the need to be alert to the possibility of anthrax infection in IDU. The Scottish Drugs Forum has published revised resources for drug workers and drug users relating to anthrax infection : Anthrax and Heroin Users    Anthrax leaflet    Anthrax poster.
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