Drug addict treated for anthrax


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The Independent Online

A drug addict is being treated in hospital for anthrax, health officials have confirmed.

The man, who has not been named, is from Gwynedd in Wales.

He is being treated at a hospital in the north west of England.

Public Health Wales said it was not yet clear whether the incident is linked to recent cases of anthrax infection in people who inject drugs in Blackpool and Scotland.

However, officials said there was an "ongoing outbreak" of anthrax among intravenous drug users in Europe.

Eight cases have been identified since early June, with contaminated heroin the suspected source.

Dr Chris Whiteside, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: "It's likely further cases among people who inject drugs will be identified as part of the ongoing outbreak in EU countries.

"The Department of Health has alerted the NHS of the possibility of drug users presenting to emergency departments and walk-in clinics, with symptoms suggestive of anthrax."

Dr Whiteside added that although anthrax was a very serious disease, it can be treated with antibiotics, especially if cases were identified early.

A Public Health Wales spokeswoman said people can become infected with anthrax through the skin, inhalation, injection or ingestion of anthrax spores.

Symptoms can vary depending on the route of infection.

Drug users may become infected when heroin is contaminated with anthrax spores, however the drug is taken.

A spokeswoman said: "Anthrax in drug users was considered to be very rare.

"Before the 2009-2010 outbreak in Scotland, only one previous case had been reported, in Norway in 2000."

The man at the centre of the latest outbreak is said to be responding to treatment well and is in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory at Health Protection Agency in Porton Down near Salisbury, is providing diagnostic support to clinical teams to assist them with the handling of anthrax incidents.