Pubdate: Wed, 15 Nov 2006
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball


Warning Issued Over Outbreak Among Crack Users

Public health officials are warning intravenous crack-cocaine users 
about an outbreak of Group A Streptococcal infection that has already 
sent several people to hospital.

"We first became aware of this over the weekend and we have had eight 
people with similar symptoms," Jill Fediurek of the Brant County 
Health Unit said Tuesday.

Health officials have established a relationship between the patients.

They're trying to contact others who may have been injecting drugs at 
a shared location.

It's possible the outbreak is coming from bacterial contamination of 
crack cocaine currently circulating in the community, officials say.

"We're not sure if it's the drug or the sharing of needles," Fediurek said.

Group A Streptococcal is always present in any community but this 
particular strain is a concern because of the severity of the symptoms.

Health officials say symptoms include painful, swollen skin, blisters 
and changes in skin colour, along with pneumonia and blood-stream infection.

If left untreated, the infection can cause more serious illness and 
lead to death.

The health of an infected individual can deteriorate rapidly and it 
can become life-threatening within a day or two.

The general public should not be concerned about the outbreak, said 
Dr. Ross Pennie, an infectious disease specialist at the Brant 
Community Healthcare System.

"You're not going to get it if you happen to share an elevator with 
someone who is infected," Pennie said.

In the non-drug-using population, the bacteria is spread by direct 
contact with saliva and nasal discharge from an infected person, or 
by direct contact with infected sores or cuts.

Good hand-washing is the single most effective way to prevent the 
spread of infection especially after coughing, sneezing, wiping your 
nose, and before eating or preparing food.

Anyone who may have been in contact with an injection drug user and 
has a fever, sore throat, rash, sores on the skin and flu-like 
illness should seek medical attention immediately.

Anyone requiring more information can call the health unit at 
519-753-4937, ext. 259.
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