Scotland anthrax toll continues to rise

The number of confirmed anthrax cases in Scotland has jumped to six following another positive test of a heroin user.

The sixth infected person, currently being treated in Airdrie at the Monklands District General Hospital, is reportedly responding well to treatment.

Three individuals have died from the anthrax infections to date while the other two surviving confirmed patients - both men - are being treated at Monklands Hospital and Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary.

Test results on a seventh patient, a woman being treated at the Southern General, have not been returned yet though she is believed to be infected.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Public Health Protection Unit are working in conjunction with NHS Lanarkshire, the Procurator Fiscal's Office and the Strathclyde Police to track the source of the anthrax.

The investigation is now centered on the possibility that heroin injected by the individuals was either contaminated with anthrax or that a cutting agent mixed with the heroin was contaminated.

"While this section of the community need to be on their guard the risk to the rest of the population - including close family members  of the infected cases - is negligible," Dr. Syed Ahmed, a consultant in Public Health Medicine, said in a statement. "It is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person and there is no significant risk of airborne transmission from one person to another. "