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Tuesday 25th June 2019

Drug users face increased risk from wound botulism

16th November 2011

People who inject drugs are facing an increased risk of developing infections such as wound botulism and tetanus.

The warning comes in the latest Health Protection Agency (HPA) annual report, Shooting Up.

Before 2000, no cases of wound botulism had been associated with people who inject drugs (PWID) but in the last decade, the HPA has received reports of 163 suspected cases.

With tetanus infections, also rarely reported among PWID before 2003, there have been 34 cases reported since.

Wound botulism can lead to paralysis, and tetanus can cause ‘Lockjaw’ and painful spasms. Both of these infections can result in serious problems with breathing, which on rare occasions can be fatal.

The HPA says the report shows how drug users are facing an ever increasing range of potential risks if they continue to inject with such bacterial infections causing serious illness and even death.

Dr Fortune Ncube, a consultant epidemiologist at the HPA and one of the report’s authors, said: “The best advice is to avoid injecting drugs and for users to seek treatment for their drug use. If people choose to continue to use drugs, then they should have access to healthcare services that will help them avoid potential infections, and support them in accessing suitable treatments options for their drug use.”

The majority of these infections among people who inject drugs are preventable and the HPA wants healthcare workers to look out these infections when caring for people who inject drugs, as prompt identification and treatment means a better outcome for patients.


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