First British anthrax infection in heroin user announced

An alert has been issued by British health officials following a positive test for an anthrax infection by a heroin user.

This is the first anthrax infection in an English heroin user and follows ten anthrax related deaths in Scotland and one in Germany from the laced heroin.

The British victim, a man, is being treated in a London hospital according to Britain's Health Protection Agency, which says that this case is the first recorded in England of transmission of anthrax through drugs.

A statement from officials from the Health Protection Agency warned that the anthrax laced heroin could potentially be circulating throughout Europe now.

Nineteen anthrax infections have been reported in Scotland during this outbreak, which has been strictly relegated to heroin users. Following the death in Germany last month, fears were raised that the contaminated heroin had begun circulating throughout Europe.

“While public health investigations are ongoing, it must be assumed that all heroin in London carries the risk of anthrax contamination. Heroin users are advised to cease taking heroin by any route, if at all possible, and to seek help from their local drug treatment services,” Brian McCloskey, the Health Protection Agency's British director, told Reuters.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, charged with monitoring health in the European Union, has suggested that the contaminated anthrax comes from a common, accidental source.