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Home Topics Infectious Diseases Infections A-Z Anthrax Anthrax: information on 2010 outbreak

Anthrax: information on 2010 outbreak

anthrax on agar plate

From December 2009 to December 2010, there was an outbreak of anthrax among heroin users in the UK, a number of whom died. The anthrax was thought to be acquired from contaminated heroin. The Health Protection Agency worked with NHS colleagues, public health organisations in the devolved administrations, and the police as part of the nationwide investigation. 

Cases of anthrax in heroin users in England, 2010

Five cases in England were confirmed between January and November 2010.

HPA Region  Confirmed cases  Deaths
 London  2  1
 North West  1  1
 East Midlands  1  1
 South East  1  1

The outbreak in Scotland was declared over on 23 December 2010. A final report  [external PDF] was published in December 2011.

Information relating to the 2010 outbreak can be found on the Health Protection Scotland website [external link].

Papers published on the outbreak: 
Price EP et al. "Molecular epidemiologic investigation of an anthrax outbreak among heroin users, Europe." Emerg Infect Dis. 2012:18(8);1307-13. [external link]

Palmateer NE et al. " Anthrax infection amongst heroin users in Scotland during 2009-2010: a case-control study by linkage to a national drug treatment database". Clin Infect Dis  2012;55(5):706-10. [external link]