Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 16:29 UK

Anthrax infects Lothian drug user

Anthrax virus
Swelling near an injection site is a symptom of anthrax infection

A further case of anthrax has been confirmed in a drug user in Scotland bringing the total number of cases in this outbreak to 33.

The new case was confirmed to have taken place in the NHS Lothian area. It is the first case of the outbreak in the area.

So far, the number of anthrax-related deaths stands at 11.

Health Protection Scotland said the cases emphasised contaminated heroin was still in circulation in Scotland.

'Difficult advice'

Dr Colin Ramsay, Health Protection Scotland's consultant epidemiologist, said: "There is no way to tell if your heroin is contaminated and there is no way to take heroin which we can advise is safer or less likely to result in illness or death if it has anthrax contamination.

"Drug users are advised that the only way to avoid the risk of anthrax in this outbreak is not to take heroin.

"While we appreciate that this may be extremely difficult advice to follow, it remains the only public health protection advice possible due to the nature of anthrax infection."

Users should seek urgent medical attention in the event of symptoms such as redness or swelling at or near an injection site, or other symptoms of general illness such a fever, chills or a severe headache, as early antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving.

Marked swelling of a limb which has been used as an injection site is a particularly important sign of possible anthrax infection.

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