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article imageFlesh-eating bacteria kills seven heroin users in San Diego

By Karen Graham     Dec 5, 2019 in Health
Seven people in San Diego County have been killed by a flesh-eating bacteria since the beginning of October, and health officials say the outbreak is linked to the use of black tar heroin.
Between October 2 and November 24 this year, nine people, ranging in age from 19 to 57 years old. were admitted to San Diego hospitals with "severe myonecrosis" after injecting black tar heroin. Seven of those patients are now dead, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.
County health officials have issued an advisory to local physicians to be on the lookout for additional cases of myonecrosis and wound botulism. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s chief public health officer, said in a statement: "People who use black tar heroin are not only at higher risk of dying from an overdose but also more prone to developing myonecrosis and wound botulism."
Heroin  a highly-addictive drug  is derived from the poppy plant
Heroin, a highly-addictive drug, is derived from the poppy plant
Pedro PARDO, AFP/File
Myonecrosis and wound botulism
Myonecrosis is sometimes referred to as gas gangrene. It is a bacterial infection that produces tissue gas in gangrene. This deadly form of gangrene usually is caused by Clostridium perfringens bacteria. More specifically, myonecrosis is a condition of necrotic damage, mainly to muscle tissue.
To be very blunt, this would be one heck of a way to die. The symptoms are frightening - and include "severe pain in the area around a wound or injection site; swelling in the area around a wound; pale skin that quickly turns gray, dark red, purple or black; blisters with foul-smelling discharge; fever; air under the skin; excessive sweating; and increased heart rate."
If left untreated, the infection becomes systemic and the patient will go into shock and this usually leads to death, the health department said.
Wound botulism is just as bad as myonecrosis. Symptoms can include "weak or drooping eyelids, blurred vision, dry mouth, a sore throat, slurred speech, issues swallowing and breathing and a progressive paralysis that travels throughout the body. The illness can also lead to death if left unchecked," according to County Health Officials.
The problem with black tar heroin
Overall, heroin use has been on the rise for a number of years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017, over 15,000 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin in the United States, and overdose deaths linked to the drug increased five-fold from 2010 to 2017.
Converting Heroin Tar into  Monkey Water  for Administration through the Nasal Cavities  Rectum  or ...
Converting Heroin Tar into "Monkey Water" for Administration through the Nasal Cavities, Rectum, or Veins.
Psychonaught via Wikimedia
Black tar heroin is a free base form of heroin that is sticky like tar or hard like coal. Its dark color is the result of crude processing methods that leave behind impurities. It generally comes across our southern border from Mexico and is most often found west of the Mississippi River. Mexico produces 3 main forms of the drug: brown powder, black tar, and white powder.
East of the Mississippi - white powder heroin from South America is more prevalent, according to a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service that looked at heroin trafficking in the U.S.
Specifically, the report states: "Mexican transnational criminal organizations are the major suppliers and key producers of most illegal drugs smuggled into the United States. They have been increasing their share of the U.S. drug market—particularly with respect to heroin—even though the United States still receives some heroin from South America and, to a lesser extent, Southwest Asia. To facilitate the distribution and sale of drugs in the United States, Mexican drug traffickers have formed relationships with U.S. gangs."
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