Link found in 2 of 3 Gillette 'flesh-eating' strep cases

2012-09-25T12:05:00Z 2012-09-25T23:45:39Z Link found in 2 of 3 Gillette 'flesh-eating' strep casesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 25, 2012 12:05 pm  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Two of three people recently treated for "flesh-eating bacteria" at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette were in close contact before being admitted to the hospital, State Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Murphy said Tuesday.

Contact between the two did not happen at a health care facility, the state said. Health officials continued to investigate what, if any, relationship the third case might have to the other two cases, Murphy said. All three cases occurred within the past three weeks.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say we're satisfied there's no threat to the public at this time," Murphy said. "Based on the preliminary information we have, we don't perceive there is a threat to the public health."

Health officials have been silent about where the three may have contracted the potentially deadly, invasive group A streptococcus. The officials cite patient privacy concerns in withholding information, including the current condition of the three patients.

The first case occurred three weeks ago, when the hospital saw one patient with an infection later confirmed to be strep A, hospital spokeswoman Karen Clarke said in a release Monday.

"Initial findings, three weeks ago, did not indicate the severe presentation of the disease. The hospital continued to conduct further analysis of the disease strain, and has confirmed three cases of invasive strep A have been seen at the hospital in the last three weeks," she said.

Murphy declined to elaborate on the nature of any relationship between the two patients who had close contact outside the hospital.

"I think the occurrence of three cases in a relatively short time period would be somewhat unusual and does get people's attention, as this situation has," he said.

The bacteria seldom present a public health threat, so cases of invasive strep A aren't tracked on a statewide level in Wyoming, Murphy said.

"We do hear of cases periodically in the state," he said. "I wouldn't say it's common, but it's not rare."

The hospital follows "very strict infection control protocols," Clarke said in the release.

"At no point were other patients at risk of contracting the invasive form of strep A at the hospital, nor are they now. The safety and health of our patients is our number one priority," she said.

A strep infection typically causes mild symptoms, such as strep throat or the common skin infection impetigo, but strep bacteria can be life-threatening if an infection enters the bloodstream.

Several recent cases in the U.S. of flesh-eating bacteria, also called necrotizing fasciitis, include a Georgia woman who had both of her hands, her right foot and left leg amputated, and an inmate in Illinois who died.

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