Fears rise that Scotland anthrax outbreak spreading

The anthrax outbreak among intravenous drug users in Scotland has now caused six deaths and infected a total of 12 people, health officials have revealed.

All of those stricken with the anthrax infections were believed to be heroin users, a spokesman for Scotland's Health Protection Agency told the Associated Press. The spokesman also said that additional cases are still under investigation.

Health experts believe that either contaminated heroin or another powder-like substance that would have been used to dilute heroin could have spread the disease, which has killed four people in Glasgow and two near Dundee and Forth Valley.

"It is highly probable that the contamination of heroin by anthrax is accidental," Gordon Meldrum, director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said in a statement. "Production processes (of heroin) can be basic and often be conducted in areas where there is contamination from animal carcasses or feces."

Investigations into the anthrax are ongoing, the Scottish police have said, and agencies that work with heroin addicts have said that they are scanning over 120 users a day for any signs of anthrax infections. Additionally, leaflets about anthrax are being handed out to heroin addicts.

The World Health Organization has also begun monitoring the situation but has said that it does not expect that the outbreak will pose a risk to the general public.