Canadian woman dies of flesh eating disease

A Canadian women has died and another patient is in a serious condition following an outbreak of so-called "flesh-eating disease" in Canada.

Both patients were treated at St Joseph's Hospital in Saint John, New Brunswick, where the surviving patient remained in serious condition today with necrotising fasciitis, hospital officials said.

A 37-year-old woman and another patient were discharged from the hospital after undergoing surgery last week, the hospital said. They were both subsequently rushed back to hospital and kept in isolation.

Hospital authorities said some hospital workers and others who might have been in contact with the two had been given antibiotics in the hope of stopping the disease from spreading.

Flesh-eating disease is rare. When it does occur, it is very serious and can lead to death. It is important to know the symptoms, and how to minimize your risks.

Flesh-eating disease is the common name for necrotizing fasciitis (nek-roe-tie-zing fah-shee-eye-tis), an infection that works its way rapidly through the layers of tissue (the fascia) that surround muscles. It destroys tissue and can cause death within 12 to 24 hours. It is estimated that there are between 90 and 200 cases per year in Canada, and about 20 to 30 percent of these are fatal.

The symptoms of flesh-eating disease include a high fever, and a red, severely painful swelling that feels hot and spreads rapidly. The skin may become purplish and then die. There may be extensive tissue destruction. Sometimes the swelling starts at the site of a minor injury, such as a small cut or bruise, but in other cases there is no obvious source of infection.

Flesh-eating disease can be caused by a number of different bacteria, including group A streptococcus (GAS). GAS is a very common bacteria. Many people carry it in the throat or on their skin without getting sick. It is the same bacteria that causes strep throat, and can also cause impetigo, scarlet fever and rheumatic fever. In rare instances, GAS will cause serious illnesses, including pneumonia, meningitis, blood poisoning (bacteremia), streptococcal toxic-shock syndrome and flesh-eating disease.

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