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Woman dies of flesh-eating bacteria infection, family says

March 10, 1997

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ State health investigators are headed to a Rochester hospital to probe the death of a woman who died of a flesh-eating bacteria infection a month after giving birth.

The unidentified woman, who died Friday, had been ill since giving birth to a healthy child by Caesarean section at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Authorities did not release the cause of her death, but the woman’s relatives told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle she died of necrotizing fasciitis, the so-called flesh-eating disease caused by a strain of Group A streptococcus.

The flesh-eating disease, which killed 11 people in England in a 1994 outbreak, responds to antibiotics if treated quickly but is fatal in about 30 percent of cases.

Hospital officials told the state Health Department that the woman died of an invasive form of Group A strep, department spokesman Robert Hinckley said. The state investigators were to begin their probe on Monday, Hinckley said.

There have been two other cases of Group A strep in the hospital’s maternity unit, although it was unclear what type those people had, the newspaper said.

And 11 cases of invasive Group A strep were reported in Monroe County over the past two months, compared with 29 total cases last year. None of those 11 infections came from the flesh-eating strain.

Group A strep infection is common in young children, but usually causes a sore throat or skin rash. The rare, necrotizing form of Group A strep can occur when someone who is susceptible has a scrape or cut that comes into contact with strep germs. The bacteria does not actually eat flesh but rather poisons it rapidly, according to medical authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimated 500 to 1,500 Americans are infected each year.

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