Drug user taken to hospital with anthrax infection

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A drug user has been taken to hospital with anthrax infection after injecting a suspected contaminated batch of heroin.

The case in Oxford follows the deaths of two people who injected drugs from confirmed anthrax infection in Blackpool in August and September.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said it was the 12th confirmed case in Europe since early June, after a case in Wales, one in Scotland, four in Germany, two in Denmark and one in France. It is unclear whether the cases are linked.

Health chiefs suspect that the heroin injected was contaminated with anthrax spores, which can survive in the environment for decades.

This year’s cases follow an outbreak in 2009 and 2010, which saw a total of 119 cases in Scotland, five in England and two in Germany.

The bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.

Dr Eamonn O’Moore, director of the HPA’s Thames Valley Health Protection Unit, said: “In light of this recent case in Oxford, we have advised local drug and alcohol action teams to talk to their service users who inject drugs about the risk of anthrax infection.

“They should seek medical advice quickly in such circumstances generally but particularly now because we have concerns that some batches of heroin in circulation in the Thames Valley may be contaminated with anthrax.”

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