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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:49 a.m., Monday, April 29, 2002

Three on Maui die from flesh-eating bacteria

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information

By Timothy Hurley
Adertiser Staff Writer

Three people on Maui have died since the beginning of the year from the rare Group A Streptococcal bacteria infection, also known as flesh-eating bacteria, the state Department of Health reported today. Another three people were also reported to have had the disease.

Three individuals became ill shortly after wound exposure and died within a few days to a week, according to Dr. Paul Effler, interim chief of the department’s Communicable Disease Division. The Department of Health issued an alert today but no one from the department was available to provide details. It was not known why the alert was issued today, where on Maui the people were exposed to the bacteria nor precisely when this occurred.

In each case, the victims were healthy people with no significant medical histories, he said.

The flesh-eating bacteria causes necrotizing fasciitis, which destroys muscles, fat and skin tissue. The bacteria can enter the body through any type of skin wound, such as ocean-reef cuts, abrasions, punctures, bug bites, stings, splinters, tears or burns.

Early symptoms of infection include fever and severe pain, warmth, swelling or redness around the wound.

Proper and immediate wound care is important to reduce the likelihood of further cases, he said.

A 5-year-old Wahiawa girl acquired the same bacteria in 1999 after cutting her knee. Her intensive-care treatment in California was costly, and the community raised money to help.