At least seven people have died in the San Diego area from a type of “flesh eating” bacterial infection associated with black tar heroin use, health officials say.
Between Oct. 2 and Nov. 24, nine people who had injected black tar heroin were admitted to San Diego County hospitals with severe myonecrosis, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency said Wednesday in a news release.
Seven were killed by the bacterial infection, which affects soft tissue and destroys muscle. Five were men, with the victims ranging in age from 19 to 57, the agency said.
One case of wound botulism, another bacterial infection associated with black tar heroin use, was confirmed in October, the agency said.
Investigators are working to determine the sources of the heroin, the agency said.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said those who use black tar heroin are at a higher risk of developing these bacterial infections.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, black tar heroin is created with crude processing methods that leave behind impurities and give the drug its dark color. The sticky and hard substance is often produced in Mexico and sold in the U.S., the institute says, and it is also usually injected, making those who use it more susceptible to infection.