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Tuesday 18th June 2019

Anthrax case confirmed in England

20th August 2012

A person who died in hospital in Blackpool had an anthrax infection, it has been confirmed.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the death involved a person who injected drugs (PWID) and coincides with an ongoing outbreak of anthrax amongst drug users affecting a number of countries in Europe.

Contaminated heroin is suspected to be behind the outbreak which has seen seven cases since early June which have included one in Scotland, three in Germany, two in Denmark, and one in France.

The HPA said it remained unclear at this stage whether the latest case in Blackpool and that in Scotland at the end of July were linked to the European cases but the organisation said it would be continuing to monitor the situation.

Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early enough.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have jointly prepared a rapid risk assessment which concludes that heroin users in Europe are still at risk of exposure to anthrax.

Dr Dilys Morgan, an expert in zoonotic infections at the HPA, said: “It’s likely that further cases among PWID will be identified as part of the ongoing outbreak in EU countries. The Department of Health has alerted the NHS of the possibility of PWID presenting to Emergency Departments and Walk-in Clinics, with symptoms suggestive of anthrax.”

She said it was important that medical professionals recognised the signs and symptoms to ensure there were no delays in providing the necessary treatment.


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