Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Eighth Scots anthrax drug death

Close up microscopic picture of the Anthrax virus
The deadly bacteria is believed to have contaminated a batch of heroin

An eighth drug addict has died after being infected with anthrax, health officials have confirmed.

Another patient, also a drug user, was confirmed to be infected with the bacteria after using what is believed to be a contaminated batch of heroin.

Both new cases occurred in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

The region has seen the highest infection rate and also the most deaths since the outbreak of the infection in December.

The health board has now seen nine confirmed cases of anthrax and five deaths.

Cutting agent

In total, eight people have now died out of 17 confirmed cases during the outbreak across six NHS boards.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial infection which occurs mostly in animals in Asia and Africa.

Humans are seldom infected and it is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person.

A Health Protection Scotland spokesman said the outbreak was "ongoing" among heroin users.

Symptoms of infection include swelling, redness, abscesses or ulcers on skin where the needle has entered, often with septicaemia.

An investigation by health boards, the procurator fiscal and Strathclyde Police is trying to identify the source of the anthrax.

One possibility is that contaminated heroin, or a contaminated agent used to cut the drug, is to blame.

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