Rochester drug user Claire Skelton with anthrax infection dies
A Medway woman has died after injecting heroin and
contracting anthrax, it has emerged.
An inquest into the death of Claire Skelton, of Princes Street,
Rochester, is due to open today.
The 42-year-old died at King's College Hospital, in London, on
Sunday, December 9.
The cause of death was given as anthrax and intravenous
Ms Skelton's death is the third in Britain this
year linked to an outbreak of anthrax among drug
users believed to have used contaminated heroin.
The Health Protection Agency said 13 cases of anthrax among
people who inject drugs have been reported in several European
countries since June.
Six of these cases were in Britain - but it is not clear if
they are specifically linked to those in Germany, Denmark
Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection that normally
infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores.
Dr Fortune Ncube, an expert in infections among people who
inject drugs at the Health Protection Agency, said: "Anthrax can be
cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early.
"It is therefore important for medical professionals to be
alert to the possibly of anthrax infection in heroin users
presenting with signs and symptoms – which include severe soft
tissue infections or blood poisoning – to prevent any delays in
"It is possible that further cases may
be seen in people who inject heroin. People who use drugs may
become infected with anthrax when the heroin they use is
contaminated with anthrax spores.
"This could be a source of infection
if injected, smoked or snorted - there is no safe route for
consuming heroin or other drugs that may be contaminated with
Mid Kent and Medway coroner
Patricia Harding will open and adjourn an inquest into Ms Skelton's
death in Maidstone today.
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