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"Three drug addicts are in a critical but stable condition"
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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Illness claims more drug users
Rogue heroin is one of the possible causes
A further two people have died of a mysterious drugs-related illness, health officials have revealed, bringing the death toll to eight in 11 days.

They have confirmed six new cases among drug addicts in the north of the city in the last two days - of which two women have died. Seven of the eight fatalities have been female.

Thirteen cases of the illness initially came to light and were centred on the Govanhill area in the south of the city.

Laurence Gruer
Laurence Gruer: "Addicts must seek medical advice

But Greater Glasgow Health Board said six more cases had been reported and of these four of the victims were female and two were male.

A board spokesman said: "As with the earlier cases, all have a serious abscess as a result of injecting into muscle or accidentally injecting outside a vein.

"Four of the patients are in a stable condition but two women have died."

"There are now therefore 19 known cases of whom 14 are women and five men."

The board said on Tuesday that it had issued a Glasgow-wide warning to GPs treating people with drug problems about the illness and they have come forward to report more cases.

Toxic threat

A rogue batch of heroin or the use of citric acid to dissolve heroin have been pinpointed as the possible causes of the deaths. The acid is widely available for use as a food flavouring.

Initial tests on a batch of citric acid had failed to reveal any signs of a toxic threat.

Health officials said the illness usually began with the appearance of an "abscess or inflammation at the point of injection". This was followed by breathing problems and organ failure.

This, it said, gradually became more widespread in the victims.

Concern over injecting into muscle

The officials said there was no evidence that the illness could be transmitted from one person to another and there was no wider risk to the community.

Public health consultant, Dr Laurence Gruer, said: "Drug injectors are advised to seek urgent medical attention if they develop a serious abscess or severe tissue inlammation and to avoid injecting into muscle if at all possible."

Of the initial 13 cases reported, three people were said to be seriously ill in hospital and a further four had been released after receiving treatment.

Shopkeepers in Govanhill told BBC Scotland that addicts frequently requested citric acid.

One said: "They come often but we always refuse and we have no citric acid."

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10 May 00 | Scotland
Drugs event swings into action
25 Feb 00 | Scotland
Drug chief issues warning
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