Anthrax death in Denmark may be result of tainted heroin

Health officials in Denmark suspect that the death of a 55-year-old heroin addict on Sunday from anthrax is the result of contaminated heroin as opposed to terrorism.

Danish and Swedish health officials are asking heroin users with skin lesions to report to a health clinic to receive testing for the Bacillus anthracis strain of anthrax. Officials are concerned that users with lesions will switch from injecting to smoking, which could be more deadly with anthrax involved, Security Management reports.

"With previous bacterial infections affecting heroin injectors the harm reduction has been obvious; smoke rather than inject," Nigel Brunsdon, an informational blogger, said according to "But with anthrax this isn't as simple, we know a major route of infection is via inhalation, in fact this is the most deadly form."

Health officials in Sweden have been on alert since three heroin users in Germany were infected with anthrax. Only one of the three infected drug users survived.

Drug Policy Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit, is advocating that governments act quickly to warn populations that may be at risk.

"Too often government officials delay releasing critical information about the local drug supply, even when they know the drug supply is tainted or potentially deadly," Meghan Ralston, the harm reduction coordinator of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, according to Security Management. "But when local governments act swiftly, respectfully and with accurate information for drug users, they take an enormous step forward in building trust and better relationships with these communities that can be so hard to reach."

Gadejuristerne, a social justice organization in Denmark, has launched a poster campaign to warn drug users that the anthrax-infected heroin may still be circulating.