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Ayer Mother Treated for Flesh-Eating Disease

August 17, 2007

By Lisa Redmond, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Aug. 17–A 35-year-old Ayer woman who gave birth to a healthy baby last week at Emerson Hospital in Concord has been transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after being diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating disease.

The woman, whose name is not being released, was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, according to Emerson Hospital spokesman Bonnie Goldsmith. She was listed in critical condition last night.

Goldsmith said the woman underwent a routine Caesarean section at Emerson on Aug. 9. Her pregnancy was normal and her baby is completely healthy.

The baby has since been released from the hospital to the care of the baby’s father, the woman’s fiance. The woman also has an 8-year-old child from a previous relationship.

“After delivery, the mother’s health declined and she was subsequently diagnosed,” Goldsmith said

On Sunday, the woman was transferred to Mass. General. Officials there were unavailable for comment last night.

Goldsmith said the disease

is “extremely rare” and this has been the only incident at Emerson.

“Emerson Hospital is reviewing the details of this extremely rare case and has taken every precaution to ensure the safety of staff and patients,” according to a statement released by Emerson. “Our analysis to date shows the patient received timely care, appropriate to her condition.”

Although hospital officials are doing an analysis of this incident, Goldsmith assured the public “it is not like there is an outbreak at the hospital. This is an extremely rare condition.”

About 30 percent of those who develop necrotizing fasciitis die from it.

Necrotizing fasciitis can destroy skin and the soft tissues beneath it, including fat and the tissue covering the muscles, according to the medical Web site webMD. Because these tissues often die rapidly, a person with necrotizing fasciitis is sometimes said to be infected with “flesh-eating” bacteria.

Many people who get necrotizing fasciitis are in good health prior to the infection. Those at increased risk of developing the infection are people who have a weakened immune system or cuts or surgical wounds.

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by several kinds of bacteria. The most common cause is infection by a “Group A” streptococcal bacterium, most often streptococcus pyogenes, which also causes other common infections such as strep throat.

The infections caused by these bacteria are usually mild. In rare cases, however, the bacteria produce poisons that can damage the soft tissue below the skin and cause a more dangerous infection that spreads through the blood to the lungs and other organs.

A break in the skin allows bacteria to infect the soft tissue. In some cases, infection can also occur at the site of a muscle strain or bruise, even if there is no break in the skin. It may not be obvious where the infection started, because the bacteria may travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.

A person may have pain from an injury that lessens over 24 to 36 hours and then suddenly becomes much worse. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhea.

Immediate medical care in a hospital is always necessary. Most people will need surgery to stop the infection from spreading. Extensive use of antibiotics is needed to kill the bacteria.

Rare, serious

n Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by several kinds of bacteria. The most common cause is infection by a “Group A” streptococcal bacterium, most often streptococcus pyogenes, which also causes other common infections such as strep throat.

n The infections caused by these bacteria are usually mild. In rare cases, however, the bacteria produce poisons that can damage the soft tissue below the skin and cause a more dangerous infection that spreads through the blood to the lungs and other organs.

n The bacteria that produce the toxins that cause necrotizing fasciitis can be passed from person to person. However, a person who acquires the bacteria is unlikely to develop a severe infection unless he or she has an open wound, chickenpox or an impaired immune system.

n In very rare cases, the bacteria can be spread from one person to another through close contact such as kissing. People who live or sleep in the same household as an infected person or who have direct contact with the mouth, nose, or pus from a wound of someone with necrotizing fasciitis have a greater risk of becoming infected.

Source: WebMD

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