Page last updated at 18:10 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Anthrax outbreak cases reach 15

Close up microscopic picture of the Anthrax virus
A further drug user has tested positive for anthrax

A further case of anthrax has been confirmed in a drug user in Scotland bringing the total number of cases in this outbreak to 15.

The new case of the potential killer was confirmed to have taken place in the NHS Ayrshire and Arran area.

So far, the number of anthrax related deaths stands at seven with cases confirmed in six NHS boards.

Investigations are continuing into whether contaminated heroin or a cutting agent may be responsible.

Dr Colin Ramsay, consultant epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland, said: "Heroin users all across Scotland need to be aware of the risk that their supply may be contaminated.

Hoofed animals

"They should seek medical advice urgently if they experience signs of infection such as redness and swelling of an infection site or high fever.

"I would urge all drug users to stop using heroin immediately and contact local drug services for support."

In addition, any users who continue to inject heroin are strongly recommended not to re-use filters, but to use a fresh filter each time they are used.

Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection most commonly found in hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

It normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores, but it cannot be passed from person to person.

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