Epidemiological update: anthrax cases among injecting drug users, 12 September 2012Archived

Epidemiological update

On 10 September, the Health Protection Agency in United Kingdom reported an additional fatal case of anthrax in England.

On 10 September, the Health Protection Agency in United Kingdom reported an additional fatal case of anthrax in England. It concerns a person who injected heroine, and died in a hospital in Blackpool, the same area where this year’s first English patient was from. This brings the number of anthrax cases reported in the EU since June 2012 to ten: three in Germany, two in Denmark, one in France, and four in the UK (one in Scotland, two in England and one in Wales). Four of these cases were fatal.

These cases follow an outbreak of anthrax in 2009 and 2010 involving 127 injecting drug users in the UK (England and Scotland with five and 119 cases respectively) and Germany (three cases).

Heroin users in Europe are still at risk of exposure to anthrax. Drug users may become infected with anthrax when heroin 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. Likewise, this new fatal case doesn’t change the assessment made by ECDC and EMCCDDA published on 16 July 2012.