Deadly Anthrax alert in resort

Anthrax

Anthrax

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FEARS have been raised a deadly drug could be sweeping the streets of Blackpool after a man died.

The tragic victim, from Kirkham, died after being infected with anthrax –thought to have come from a contaminated heroin injection.

A police investigation has now been launched following the man’s death at Blackpool Victoria Hospital –and the Health Protection Agency have not ruled out the possibility of further cases.

They are already linking the death with a spate of similar tragedies across Europe, but Blackpool Victoria Hospital has today stressed there is no need for their patients to be alarmed.

The man who died has not been named.

Dr Mark O’Donnell, Medical Director at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Everyone involved ensured the Trust’s standard infection procedures were carried out which made sure there was no risk to patients or staff.’’

But drug workers claim other users on the Fylde coast could be at serious risk.

Steve Pope, who works at a drug rehabilitation centre in Bispham, told The Gazette: “There is a good chance there is a substantial amount of heroin on the Fylde coast with anthrax in it because this won’t be a one-off case.

“In the last few years there seems to have been batches of heroin in particular where it has been mixed with poisons to give it bulk. I know people who have brought drugs containing battery acid.”

Spores

Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection which normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest spores.

This is the eighth case reported across European since June.

Dr Dilys Morgan, an expert at the HPA, said: “It’s likely that further cases among PWID (people who inject drugs) will be identified as part of the ongoing outbreak in EU countries.”

Coun Ivan Taylor, chairman of Health and Well Being Board in Blackpool, admitted he was alarmed at the death.

He said: “This is a serious issue and there will have to be major investigation.

“This is a real concern and it demonstrates to users that they have to be so careful about using these substances.

“There is a lot of work that now needs to be done to get to the bottom of it.”

Mark Styles, Business and Quality Performance Director at Pierpoint Addiction Centre in St Annes, says cases like this are rare but show the “hidden risk” drug users face.

Mr Styles said: “As with any street drug, you can never guarantee what chemicals and ingredients have been used, therefore the potential for harm or even death is always a risk.”

Police are now investigating and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “Anyone with information about the source of these drugs should let us know who may have supplied them.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact police directly on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555111