Seven people in San Diego have died in just the last two months after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria that is associated with black tar heroin use, the County of San Diego Communications Office announced Wednesday.
Between Oct. 2 and Nov. 24, nine people who injected black tar heroin were admitted to hospitals in San Diego County with severe myonecrosis, a bacterial infection that destroys muscle and damages soft tissue.
Seven of the nine patients died, the agency said. Their ages ranged from 19 to 57 years old, and five were male.
The agency said they also confirmed a case of wound botulism, another bacterial infection associated with black tar heroin use, in October. The infection attacks the body’s nerves and can cause muscle weakness and even death, according to the CDC.
Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said in the agency’s statement that people who inject illicit drugs, specifically black tar heroin, are at a much higher risk of developing both myonecrosis and wound botulism.
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Health officials have issued an advisory to the medical community to be on the lookout for additional cases of infection linked to heroin use, the agency said.
The county health officials also noted that the sources of the black tar heroin remain unknown, but an investigation is continuing.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, black tar heroin — defined as being sticky and hard like coal — is predominately produced in Mexico and sold in the U.S. areas west of the Mississippi River. The heroin is typically injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin.