Anthrax outbreak in United Kingdom slowing

There has only been one new reported case of anthrax related to heroin use in the United Kingdom since May, leading many to believe that the outbreak among users has come to an end.

Since the first anthrax contaminated batch of heroin was detected in the United Kingdom during Christmas 2009, almost 50 addicts were admitted to hospitals with anthrax infections and 13 deaths were reported.

The majority of the infections and deaths occurred in Scotland and predominantly in the town of Glasgow, The Guardian reports. One death was reported in England, which saw several anthrax cases, and an additional fatality was reported in Germany. Nine deaths were reported in Portugal, The Guardian reports, but the cause of those deaths has been disputed.

"There's still a risk and it's something drug users need to be aware of," a spokeswoman for Health Protection Scotland told The Guardian. "If they show any symptoms, they should seek help as soon as possible."

The source of the anthrax contaminated heroin has yet to be determined, though experts have speculated on two potential sources.

"Heroin could be naturally contaminated after harvesting from contact with soil in an area where an animal had died from anthrax at some point, or by being stored or transported in contact with animal products, especially skins, from an animal that had died from anthrax," the guidance states," police officers investigating the heroin told The Guardian. "The second option is that the heroin was contaminated at some stage during the cutting process… Of feasible agents, animal products are the most likely, and of these, bone meal would be suitable for cutting and has been associated with cases of cutaneous anthrax in people handling it in the past."