Heroin user negative for anthrax infection

Blood tests carried out on a heroin user in Cumbria, England, have proven negative for anthrax infections so far, health officials have announced.

The unidentified male was feared to have the disease following the injection of a contaminated batch of heroin. The drug user was admitted on Christmas Day to Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

The man was suffering from skin lesions at the time of his admission, a symptom typical of anthrax poisoning. Initial laboratory blood tests performed on the man, however, have not shown the presence of anthrax.

"This is encouraging news but injecting drug users in Cumbria should not let their guard down," Dr. John Ashton, director of Public Health at NHS Cumbria, told the Press Association. "Anyone who injects drugs and experiences any unusual symptoms such as swelling or pain at the injection site should seek medical help immediately as anthrax can be lethal."

There have been two confirmed deaths of heroin users from anthrax infections to date in Scotland. Tests on a third heroin users who died after taking what is believed to be a contaminated heroin dose are ongoing.

There have been four confirmed anthrax infections so far, and a woman who tested positive for anthrax is currently begin treated at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary.