For Immediate Release:
July 03, 2018
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is warning that black tar heroin in Los Angeles may be contaminated with bacteria that can cause wound botulism, a serious illness that can cause death. Injection drug users are at greatest risk, especially if injecting contaminated heroin under their skin (“skin-popping”) or into their muscle (“muscling”). Public Health is investigating three suspected cases of wound botulism occurring within the context of a recent outbreak of heroin-associated increase of botulism cases in San Diego County.
Contaminated drugs look the same as drugs that do not contain bacteria. “Cooking” or heating drugs will not kill the bacteria that cause botulism. Botulism is not contagious from person to person, but if you share contaminated heroin or equipment (“works”) with another person, both of you might get botulism.
Symptoms of wound botulism include drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may be mistaken for drug overdose and may occur within days or weeks of injecting the contaminated drug. Any injection drug user who is suspected of experiencing these symptoms should go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Symptoms can be life threatening and require immediate medical attention.
First responders and emergency department personnel are reminded to consider botulism in heroin users who presents with neurologic symptoms and call the Department of Public Health Immediately for advice on testing and treatment.
For general information on drug abuse prevention and treatment, visit the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control page at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc or call (844) 804-7500. For more information on wound botulism, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/botulism/wound-botulism.html.
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of over 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,100 employees and has an annual budget of $1 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at twitter.com/lapublichealth, facebook.com/lapublichealth and youtube.com/lapublichealth.