Drug activists take to streets after anthrax found in heroin

Death of IV drug user inspires street level information campaign

A 55-year-old drug addict succumbed to anthrax at Rigshospitalets on Sunday. Police and medical personel suspect the man, who was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, was exposed to the deadly bacteria after using an infected batch of brown heroin.

Posters hung by the Gadejuristerne, an aid group helping hard-core drug addicts, appeared throughout Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district warning that the infected drugs may still be on the street.

Gadejuristerne spokesperson Nanna W Gotfredsen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that she was ‘shocked’ that the police and other authorities had not warned addicts about the possibility of infected heroin on the streets of Copenhagen.

“When a German junkie died from anthrax two weeks ago, the Board of Health issued a warning to hospitals that Danish junkies might be at risk, but no one bothered to tell the addicts, “she said.

Gotfredsen said that if no one else was going to warn drug users, her group had a responsibility to see that it was done.

There are an estimated 13,000 intravenous drug users in Denmark including 8,000 in Copenhagen.

Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated herbivorous mammals that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing.

Gotfredsen said the heroin may have been infected due to unsanitary conditions where it is processed.

“In Afghanistan, opium is often grown and processed right next to the goats and other livestock. It is possible that it was contaminated there, “she said. “ Production is so primitive that one often finds e. coli bacteria and other filth in the heroin.”