Anthrax infected drug user dies in Blackpool

Image caption Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection most commonly found in hoofed animals

A drug user has died in Blackpool after being infected with anthrax, health experts said.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said a person who injected heroin died in hospital in the Lancashire town.

It comes three weeks after another drug user, Declan Wallace, 48, from Kirkham, Lancashire, died in Blackpool after contracting the bacterial infection.

The HPA said it believed he had injected contaminated heroin.

There have been a spate of cases in Europe since early June, including one other fatal case in England, one non-fatal in Scotland and another in Wales.

Breathing difficulties

The HPA said it is "unclear" whether the British cases are linked to the European outbreak, which has affected drug users in Denmark, Germany and France.

Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection most commonly found in hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

It normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores.

Dr Fortune Ncube, an expert in blood-borne viruses at the HPA, said: "Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early.

"It is therefore important for medical professionals to know the signs and symptoms to look for, so that there will be no delays in providing treatment.

"It's likely that further cases among people who inject heroin will be identified as part of the ongoing outbreak in EU countries."

He said an alert about the ongoing outbreak of anthrax among drug users has been circulated to NHS hospitals.

Local drug services throughout the country have also been told, he said.

Dr Ncube added: "The HPA is warning people who use heroin that they could be risking anthrax infection.

"We urge all heroin users to seek urgent medical advice if they experience signs of infection such as redness or excessive swelling at or near an injection site, or other symptoms of general illness such a high temperature, chills, severe headaches or breathing difficulties.

"Early treatment with antibiotics is essential for a successful recovery."

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