Heroin user infected with anthrax

A heroin user in England has tested positive for anthrax following 19 similar cases in Scotland, it was announced today.

The unnamed user is the first ever recorded case of anthrax transmission through drugs in England.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and NHS London said the user is being treated in a London hospital.

There are similarities to the Scottish cases, suggesting the heroin - or a contaminated cutting agent mixed with it - is the source of infection, a statement from both organisations said.

HPA director Dr Brian McCloskey said: "We are working closely with NHS London to monitor the situation.

"There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission in this case and I'd like to reassure people that the risk to the general population, including close family members of the infected patient, is negligible.

"It is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person and there has been no evidence of a significant risk of airborne transmission associated with the current situation in Scotland.

"While public health investigations are ongoing, it must be assumed that all heroin in London carries the risk of anthrax contamination."