Drug user dies from anthrax infection in U.K.

The Health Protection Agency announced on Thursday that a drug user in Medway, United Kingdom, who injected heroin was diagnosed with anthrax and died as a result of the disease.

The case is the latest in an outbreak of anthrax among drug users throughout Europe with 13 cases reported since early June. Fortune Ncube, an HPA expert in infections among drug users, said that there is no safe method for taking drugs that may be contaminated.

"It is possible that further cases may be seen in people who inject heroin," Ncube said. "People who use drugs may become infected with anthrax when the heroin they use is contaminated with anthrax spores. This could be a source of infection if injected, smoked or snorted - there is no safe route for consuming heroin or other drugs that may be contaminated with anthrax spores."

The latest case is the sixth case of anthrax among drug users in the U.K. Of the four cases of anthrax infection in England, three of the drug users died from the disease.

The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control concluded that heroin users in Europe continue to be at risk of anthrax exposure.

"Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early," Ncube said. "It is therefore important for medical professionals to be alert to the possibility of anthrax infection in heroin users presenting with signs and symptoms - which include severe soft tissue infections or blood poisoning - to prevent any delays in providing treatment."