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Sweden warns heroin users after anthrax death

Sweden warns heroin users after anthrax death

Published: 09 Jul 2012 14:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Jul 2012 14:56 GMT+02:00

The death of a drug user in Denmark from what is believed to be a batch of heroin contaminated by anthrax has prompted a warning from Swedish health authorities to the country's heroin users.

The warning, issued Monday by communicable disease control officials in Skåne in southern Sweden comes following the death of a 55-year-old Danish heroin user at a hospital in Copenhagen.

"Copenhagen and Malmö are very close so after the death in Denmark, we thought it best to warn heroin users here about the possible risks," Håkan Ringberg, an infectious disease doctor with Smittskydd Skåne, told The Local.

The Danish drug user died on Sunday after being treated for several days in a Copenhagen hospital. Traces of anthrax were subsequently found in the man's blood.

According to Ringberg, the infection can't spread between people and the warning is directed primarily at heroin users who inject the drug.

"The risk of infection [from anthrax] comes when one injects heroin," he said, adding his agency estimates there are "thousands" of heroin users in Sweden.

"We're advising users not to take heroin intravenously."

He also credited needle exchange programmes in southern Sweden for helping health authorities spread the word among users, but added that there are no signs as of yet that any anthrax-contaminated heroin has made its way to Sweden.

Earlier in the summer, there were three cases of anthrax in Germany, which was in turn connected to an earlier outbreak in Great Britain in 2010.

However, no connection has been found to tie the cases in Germany to the recent anthrax death in Denmark.

"Nothing has been established for sure. At this point, it's still a theory, but we are warning users nonetheless," said Ringberg.

Meanwhile, Swedish health authorities continue to maintain close contact with health officials in Denmark.

"We've had contact with our counterparts in Denmark and been informed of their continuing work to trace the contagion," Sofie Ivarsson, an epidemiologist with the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control (Statens smittskyddsinstitut – SMI), told the TT news agency.

Swedish health officials have been on heightened alert since anthrax cases in German and as an on-call emergency lab standing by should any suspected anthrax cases be reported in Sweden.

David Landes/TT

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Your comments about this article

16:12 July 9, 2012 by cbgbg
Nobody becomes a junkie on purpose. It´s about time that metadon (even though it´s more addictive) is used in treatment to stop deaths and crime so that a more normal life can be lived
20:27 July 9, 2012 by Bender B Rodriquez
Methadone has been used the last 40 years in Sweden, so I have no clue what you mean by "It's about time"....
20:41 July 9, 2012 by cbgbg
Yes, it´s been used for the last 40 years but who the hell gets help with methadone or subetrex. Nobody. People are begging for help but do not get it . So get your facts right not from some poxy governmental survey but from people who suffer .
23:37 July 9, 2012 by Dazzler
"Nobody becomes a junkie on purpose."

That is just wrong and stupid. You know what you signed up for when you slammed a needle in your arm. I have zero pity for people of this caliber and even less patience. Get on with it and overdose.
00:11 July 10, 2012 by diegoveggie
sweden should warn heroin users about... heroin
16:51 July 11, 2012 by cbgbg
Dazzler

I really hope that your children or grandchildren never become junkies. I agree nobody is forced but it´s bloody difficult to give it up. So i really hope in the future that you don´t have to say to a member in your family "Get on with it and overdose"
17:42 July 17, 2012 by Achilles7
Why does society have so much sympathy for drug addicts? We must try to help them, they need support, they shouldn't be judged, etc. You become a drug addict because you deliberately, and selfishly, decide to start taking them in the first place. It's nobody's fault but your own.
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