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Epidemiological update: anthrax cases among people who inject drugs

08 Mar 2013

On 8 March, the Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom reported an additional fatal case of anthrax in Suffolk, England. It concerns a person who injected heroin. This brings the number of anthrax cases among injecting drug users (IDU) in the EU since June 2012 to 14: four in Germany, two in Denmark, one in France, and seven in the UK (one in Scotland, five in England and one in Wales). Six of these cases were fatal.

These 14 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).

This additional case is not unexpected and does not change the risk assessment made by ECDC and EMCCDDA published on 16 July 2012. The reporting of cases of anthrax among IDU in several countries over a long period of time suggests that contaminated heroin is still circulating in Europe. People who inject heroin in Europe are still at risk of exposure to anthrax. The two organisations are working together to produce a joint guidance document on the prevention of anthrax among IDU.


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