DUBLIN drugs services have been put on high alert over fears that heroin used by drug-takers could be contaminated with anthrax.
The warning was issued by the HSE following the hospitalisation of a man in Scotland who was poisoned after he used heroin that contained the deadly substance.
The HSE was prompted to issue the warning as Scotland’s drug supply has been linked to Ireland in the past.
The NHS in Lanarkshire, Scotland, where the affected man is from, has advised drug users to abstain from using heroin.
They said that those who insist on taking the drug should smoke it instead of injecting it.
There have been no reported cases in Ireland since the warning was issued on July 25. However, a spokesperson for the HSE told the Southside People that they are keeping a close eye on the situation.
Between 2009-2012, over 100 heroin users in Scotland were poisoned by the same batch of the drug that was infected with anthrax. Fourteen people later died.
In 2000, eight heroin users in Ireland died after they injected heroin that was contaminated by a different bacterium.
It is thought that this latest batch of contaminated drugs has been imported from Afghanistan via Turkey, where it had been smuggled in containers which were disguised with infected goat-hide.
Expressing her concern over the sinister development, Grace Hill, the coordinator of the Tallaght Drugs Task Force, said she has passed on the warning to a number of Southside community treatment centres.
“This is deeply concerning,” she said. “We receive lots of these warnings from the HSE and thankfully they don’t always come to fruition, but we have to be vigilant and make sure all workers have received the necessary information.”
Ms Hill added: “This sort of warning hits home about how dangerous drug taking is. It shows that people don’t know what kind of toxins they are injecting into their bodies. It’s very dangerous.”
Echoing Ms Hill’s concerns, Deputy Sean Crowe (SF) also urged people to take heed of the warning and be aware of the potential risks.
“Clearly there is a very real danger from this contaminated heroin,” he said. “The NHS in Lanarkshire has advised heroin users to avoid using the drug if possible. I would like to commend the HSE for giving this early warning and for preparing its staff to be on the lookout for Irish drug users displaying similar symptoms.”
Deputy Crowe urged people who have close contacts with heroin users to be aware of the potential signs of infection.
“The signs and symptoms for injecting drug users include marked swelling and redness at an injection site, which may or may not be painful, abscess or ulcer, and possible fever, headache or nausea,” he said.
He added that if a person smokes heroin that contains anthrax they could develop flu-like symptoms, which leads to severe breathlessness.More Information - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18981196