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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Anthrax update

March 03 2010
A 10th heroin user in Scotland has died after becoming infected

A 10th heroin user in Scotland has died after becoming infected with anthrax. Health Protection Scotland confirmed that the latest death was located in the Fife area, with a total of 24 cases now recorded, in seven NHS boards across the country.

The Pavement reported on the anthrax outbreak last month. It appears that the contaminated batch of heroin is still in circulation, as health officials in Dumfries and Galloway recently reported the region's first infection of the current outbreak. An unnamed heroin user in Blackpool has also died from the anthrax disease, while a case in Germany from December was found to be "indistinguishable" from the strain of anthrax in Scotland.

Dr Colin Ramsay, consultant epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland, said it was important that people understand the increased risks of using heroin.

He said: "There is no way to tell if your heroin is contaminated and there is no way to prepare or take heroin that will make it safe if it has anthrax contamination.

"Drug users are advised to stop taking heroin if at all possible. While we appreciate that this may be extremely difficult advice to follow, it remains the only public health protection advice possible due to the nature of anthrax infection.

"Users should seek urgent medical attention in the event of symptoms such as redness or swelling at or near an injection site, or other symptoms of general illness such a fever, high temperature, chills or a severe headache, as early antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving." It is thought that the heroin may have been contaminated by an agent used during the cutting process, as it is often prepared in unhygienic environments. Police are investigating how the drug came into the country.

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