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Report: Infection Kills Conn. Official

December 12, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ An infection caused by ``flesh-eating″ bacteria has killed the chairwoman of the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration, The Day of New London reported in Friday’s editions.

Robin Miller, 52, of Stonington, died Wednesday at Hartford Hospital from a virulent bacterial infection known medically as necrotizing fasciitis, the newspaper reported.

Miller also was chairwoman of the state Department of Administrative Services’ Employee Review Board and the Republican registrar of voters in Stonington.

Stonington First Selectman Peter Dibble notified state health officials as the sudden nature of Miller’s illness and death led to rumors and concerns by town hall employees. Miller became ill late Friday.

``Because the onset of Robin’s illness was so rapid it raised some level of concern,″ Dibble said. ``I felt it was important to do what we could to ease whatever concerns they had.″

Two epidemiologists from the state Department of Public Health spoke to town employees and answered their questions Thursday. They explained that the illness that killed Miller is rare and extremely difficult to contract. It is caused by the same bacteria that typically results in nothing more serious than a sore throat or skin rash.

``It’s still a very rare disease,″ said Dr. Matthew Cartter, the epidemiology program coordinator for the state health department. ``There have never been any reports of it being spread in a school or work setting.″

State and hospital officials declined to discuss the details of Miller’s illness, citing privacy issues. Miller leaves behind two grown children, a son and daughter.

Stonington Selectman Bill Brown, the current Republican town chairman, said ``everyone was in shock″ about Miller’s death. ``No one expects someone as young as her to suddenly be gone in four days,″ he said.

The town’s Democratic registrar of voters, Terry Grimes, said Miller was a sensitive person who was committed to her work. She said Miller was busy with many activities. ``She ran around everywhere,″ Grimes said. ``She did so many different things and she did them all well. She was such a vital person who looked nice all the time. It’s sad to see her go this way.″

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by bacteria from Group A Streptococcus, or GAS, according to the Public Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin, and most infections cause relatively mild problems such as strep throat and impetigo. Many people who carry the bacteria have no symptoms of disease.

Occasionally, however, the bacteria cause serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis and Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, which are known as invasive GAS disease.

It is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 cases of invasive GAS disease occur in the United States each year, resulting in roughly 2,000 to 3,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a destructive infection of muscle and fat tissue. Between 500 and 700 people a year contract necrotizing bacteria nationwide and about 20 percent of them die, according to state and federal health officials. The bacteria are most commonly spread by direct contact with the nose and throat of an infected individual or by contact with infected skin lesions.

Three to 10 cases a year occur in Connecticut, according to Cartter.

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