Warnings over heroin laced with anthrax on sale in Croydon
DRUG addicts in Croydon are being warned about catching potentially lethal anthrax infections from contaminated heroin.
Posters have been put up in the town carrying the stark message: "Anthrax is killing heroin users: Early treatment can save your life."
The campaign directs drug users to the Croydon Treatment and Recovery Partnership, in Church Road, for help and advice.
It is feared heroin in the area may have come from a batch which hospitalised a user in Scotland with an anthrax infection on July 24.
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The infection causes difficulty breathing, fever and headache. Injecting drug users may also see swelling around the area of injection. However, the infection can be caught from contaminated heroin whether the drug is injected, smoked or snorted.
Authorities believe the case in Scotland may be connected to an outbreak of anthrax infections among injecting drug users in Europe.
Five cases have been identified since early June, in Germany, Denmark and France.
A spokeswoman for Croydon University Hospital said on Wednesday that the hospital has not yet seen any cases.
Dr Fortune Ncube, of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), said hospitals across the country have been warned to look out for signs of the infection.
A spokesman for the HPA added: "Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early.
"It is therefore important for medical professionals to know what sorts of symptoms and signs to look for, so that there are no delays in obtaining the necessary treatment."
He added: "There is no safe route for consuming heroin or other drugs that may be contaminated with anthrax spores."
Dr David Cromie is a consultant in public health medicine for NHS Lanarkshire, where the Scottish user has been hospitalised.
He said: "It is important that drug users are aware of the particular dangers involved when they are injecting heroin.
"The advice to drug users is to avoid all heroin use, which we recognise may be very difficult for drug users to follow.
"If there is any pain or swelling around an injection site drug users should seek urgent medical attention."
The outbreak marks the first cases of anthrax among injecting drug users in Europe since a lethal outbreak in 2009 and 2010.
Then, five cases were reported in England, 119 in Scotland, and two in Germany. Before that, only one case had been reported, in Norway in 2010.
Croydon Council had not commented when the Advertiser went to press.
To get help or advice to treat drug addiction, contact the Croydon Treatment and Recovery Partnership at 190 Church Road, Croydon, CRO 1SE, or phone 020 8604 7104.