There have recently been a number of cases of wound botulism among people injecting heroin in Scotland and a single recent case confirmed in England and, although it is currently unknown whether there is a cross-border link, these cases might indicate an increase in the overall level of heroin contamination. A national alert has therefore been issued on the Central Alerting System (CAS).
Wound botulism is acquired when spores of the botulism bacterium, which can be found in contaminated supplies of heroin, get into the body through injecting the drugs intramuscularly or subcutaneously. In light of the recent cases, the overall level of risk of wound botulism among people who inject drugs in the UK is currently higher than usual. In response to the alert Public Health England has produced some fact sheets for information purposes.