Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jun 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Marie O'Halloran
Bookmark: additional articles on heroin are available at


The Eastern Regional Health Authority has denied reports that a new case of 
the mysterious heroin-related illness was expected to be confirmed today in 
the region.

A spokeswoman said the situation was under review but there had been no 
changes in the number of patients identified. Currently 15 cases had been 
confirmed in the Dublin area, of whom eight have died. None of Dublin's 
major hospitals has reported any new cases. Thirty-one addicts in Ireland 
and Britain have died from the condition.

It emerged over the weekend that 14 injecting drug-users in England and 
Wales were suffering from a similar illness, of whom seven had died. The 
death toll in the Glasgow area is now 14, with the latest death confirmed 
on Saturday. Two others have died in the north-east of Scotland.

This follows an announcement by Greater Glasgow Health Board that officials 
are now closer to identifying the fatal illness.

It said microbiologists now suspected the illness was caused by a type of 
anaerobic activity, which occurs without oxygen. This is likely where 
heroin is injected directly into muscle or skin rather than into a vein. 
Anaerobic bacteria cause botulism, tetanus and gas gangrene. Experts 
originally thought the illness could be anthrax but that was ruled out last 

The illness initially manifests itself as an abscess on the skin but 
gradually inflames and attacks muscle and tissue. Victims suffer a 
septicaemia-type illness and need intensive care, but some have died from 
multiple organ failure within hours.

Microbiologists from the Atlanta Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 
in the US, the leading specialists in unusual illnesses, are in Dublin 
assisting the ERHA.

Both Irish and US experts have also consulted English and Scottish medical 
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MAP posted-by: Thunder