Woman dies after injecting herself with heroin contaminated with ANTHRAX
Death is the third in Britain linked to an outbreak of anthrax amongst people using heroin
16:27 GMT, 19 December 2012
The death is the third in Britain linked to an outbreak of anthrax among drug users believed to have used contaminated heroin
A woman has died after injecting herself with heroin contaminated with anthrax.
An inquest has been opened after Claire Skelton, 42, from Rochester, Kent, died at King's College Hospital in London on December 9.
The cause of death was given as anthrax and intravenous drug abuse.
Her death is the third in Britain linked to an outbreak of anthrax among drug users believed to have used contaminated heroin.
The Health Protection Agency said 13 cases of anthrax among people who inject drugs have been reported in several European countries since June.
Six of the cases have occurred in the UK, including four in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales.
Earlier this year, two drug users died in Blackpool after contracting the bacterial infection.
The HPA said the source of the infection is presumed to be contaminated heroin.
Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection that normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores.
Dr Fortune Ncube, an expert in infections among people who inject drugs at the Health Protection Agency, said: 'Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early.
'It is therefore important for medical
professionals to be alert to the possibly of anthrax infection in heroin
users presenting with signs and symptoms – which include severe soft
tissue infections or blood poisoning – to prevent any delays in
Anthrax (pictured) is an acute bacterial infection that normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores
'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 James Sedgwick, interim director of the HPA’s Kent Health Protection Unit, said: 'In light of this recent case in Medway, 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 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 generally but particularly now because we have concerns that some batches of heroin in circulation may be contaminated with anthrax. Early treatment with antibiotics is essential for a successful recovery.'