New anthrax case reported in Scotland outbreak

A second drug user in the Lothians has been infected following a recent outbreak of anthrax poisoning, Scottish officials recently announced.

The anthrax outbreak in Scotland stemming from what is believed to be tainted heroin has risen to 39 infections, including 12 Deaths, officials reported.

Health Protection Scotland officials continue to warn heroin users to steer clear of the drug.

“There is no way to tell if your heroin is contaminated and there is no way to take heroin which we can advise is safer or less likely to result in illness or death if it has anthrax contamination,” Dr. Colin Ramsay, Health Protection Scotland's consultant epidemiologist, told “Drug users are advised that the only way to avoid the risk of anthrax in this outbreak is not to take heroin. While we appreciate that this may be extremely difficult advice to follow, it remains the only public health protection advice possible due to the nature of anthrax infection.”

Questions have recently been raised by experts as to the source of the outbreak. The executive director for the Center for Health Policy & Preparedness at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the center's medical director, in a Washington Times report, questioned if the continuing outbreak was part of a terror threat and not accidentally contaminated heroin.

England has also seen a handful of anthrax-tainted heroin cases since the first cases seen in Scotland in December 2009.

Professor Lindsey Davies, Regional Director of Public Health from NHS London, said she believed a contaminated cutting agent mixed with the heroin, is the likely source of infection.

Symptoms include a high temperature, chills or a severe headache. Health officials stress that early antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving.

Officials also said there has been no evidence of person-to-person transmission with any of the recent cases and that it is extremely rare for anthrax to spread in that fashion.