Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Friday, 5 February 2010

Anthrax - in London

Quoted from HPA, and found by chance when looking at ambulance statistics :-
Anthrax alert for heroin users in London
5 February 2010

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and NHS London can confirm that a drug injecting heroin user has tested positive for anthrax and is being treated in a London hospital.

This is the first case of anthrax seen in an injecting drug user in England since similar cases were first seen in Scotland in December 2009. Nineteen cases have so far been confirmed in Scotland. Similarities to the cases in Scotland suggest that the heroin, or a contaminated cutting agent mixed with the heroin, is the likely source of infection.
Dr Brian McCloskey, Director of the Health Protection Agency in London, said:
"We are working closely with NHS London to monitor the situation. There is no evidence of person to person transmission in this case and I'd like to reassure people that the risk to the general population, including close family members of the infected patient, is negligible. It is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person and there has been no evidence of a significant risk of airborne transmission associated with the current situation in Scotland.
"While public health investigations are ongoing, it must be assumed that all heroin in London carries the risk of anthrax contamination. Heroin users are advised to cease taking heroin by any route, if at all possible, and to seek help from their local drug treatment services. Heroin users in London are strongly encouraged, as soon as possible, to find out more about the support services in their area. They can be put in touch with local drug services and receive advice by contacting Talk to Frank."
Professor Lindsey Davies, Regional Director of Public Health from NHS London, said:
"I urge all heroin users in London to be extremely alert to the risks and to seek urgent medical advice if they experience signs of infection such as redness or excessive swelling at or near an injection site, or other symptoms of general illness such a high temperature, chills or a severe headache or breathing difficulties, as early antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving. This is a very serious infection for drug users and prompt treatment is crucial.
"Drug injecting is an extremely risky and dangerous practice and users are vulnerable to a wide range of infectious diseases, both from the action of piercing the skin, as well as contaminants in the drugs that they use.
"Health professionals and drug action teams in England had already been alerted to the situation in Scotland in December and we will continue to work closely with colleagues who work with drug users to monitor probable cases and raise awareness of the risks."
To the best of our knowledge, we Rigbys know nobody who uses heroin - but we hope those who do are careful with their sources.

It's at times like this when we wonder if legalising drugs would be sensible, as they have done in Portugal, and as reported by the Cato Institute.

Would legalising help stop contamination? - Discuss amongst yourselves.

This item from Scientific American reports on the situation in Portugal 5 years after decriminalisation and
Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working."


Leg-iron said...

Well... it's like telling smokers that imported tobacco is bad for them (that happened a few years back on a documentary!). If someone is injecting heroin, they aren't really all that concerned about their health.

Injected anthrax is a nasty way to go. The bacterium grows so fast it blocks cappillaries and you die bit by bit, if the toxin doesn't get you first. But you can't catch that unless the junkie bleeds on you.

Anthrax of the gut, or of the lung, however, is communicable. Junkies aren't likely to get it that way. So this will only kill junkies.

Could this be a way of getting a 'health warning' onto an uncontrolled substance?

The police have caught tons of this stuff in the past. It would be a little bit on the easy side to contaminate it in such a way that only the junkies will die, and then slip it back onto the market.

The maddening thing is that medically at least, Labour have taken us back to the middle ages. Soon, the leper's bell will toll in the street and 'Bring out your dead' will echo in the mornings.

Better go and practise some witchery. It's the only thing I'd be any use at.

Furor Teutonicus said...

They should lace all the heroin that customs and police have captured, with cyanide, or similar, and then release the stuff onto the street.

Just don't give them a clue as to which is which.

Watching the panic would make GREAT viewing.

Mrs R said...

I don't think lacing any drugs is a nice thing to do, whoever is responsible. Taking heroin might not be very sensible but ... well ... let's hope this isn't deliberate.

To be honest the thing that concerns me most about this alert is that there seem to have been other cases that haven't been reported. Total numbers in January were 15, but in this latest report it says there have been 19 - why the secrecy or lack of reporting?

They refer to this as an 'outbreak', which makes it sound as if it's catching - which is be hard to believe if it's limited to those who are injecting themselves. They wanted us all to panic about swine flu, and it worked, they could get a real panic (terror alert) going now if they tried hard enough - how many would know anything different, if they read it in the papers or saw it on the news?

418 said...

The idea that this scare is just another government way of promoting the general paranoia, sorry terror alert, is very plausible. The whole security theatre, with massive and intrusive over-policing and now full-body scanners, is a costly and largely ineffective pocket-lining scam. What we need is less, not more, and decriminalization a la portugaise sounds like a good move on the basis that prohibition has been a failure. Oh, and Furor Teut, if there is a panic I do hope that you don't become just another statistic on innocent bystanders doing the gawking!

Mrs R said...

It's surprising it isn't getting more coverage because 'they' could easily tie it in with the high alert thingy.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Hols on a minute.

If I am nort mistaken, do not most of these drugs come from Afghanistan or Pakystan? Then....

Mrs R said...

@ FT - no, I don't think you're mistaken ...

Same wavelength?

St George is x, very X said...

What they're going to do is create a security alert to postpone the General Election.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Same wavelength indeed Mrs R.

Mrs R said...

@ St George is very x - A few bloggers seem to think it's possible but, to be honest, I can't imagine it happening.