British heroin user dies from anthrax

A British drug user has died in a Kent hospital after injecting heroin contaminated with anthrax.

The U.K.’s Health Protection Agency confirmed the fatality and announced that it was the fifth case of an English drug user becoming ill and dying from the deadly bacterial infection, according to the BBC. The HPA refused to release the drug user’s sex or age because of patient confidentiality rules.

Health officials say that there is no risk to the general population or to the patient’s family members. Heroin users are being warned to seek medical advice if they begin to display symptoms.

“It is extremely unlikely that this form of anthrax can spread from person to person,” Dr. Mathi Chandrakumar, director of the Kent Health Protection Unit, said, according to the BBC. He called the death a sad outcome.

"We continue to see occasional cases of this serious infection among injecting drug users, following a cluster of cases earlier this year,” Chandrakumar said. “Exposure to anthrax is now one of a number of risks that drug users are exposed to."

The HPA said that there have been 47 confirmed cases of anthrax infection among drug users in Scotland since December 2009. It believes that the most likely cause of the infections was a contaminated agent that was used to cut the heroin.

Anthrax is a rare bacterial infection most commonly found among hoofed animals. Symptoms of the disease include high temperature, chills, a severe headache or breathing trouble.