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NZ Sees Surge in Flesh-Eating Disease Cases

Posted by te2ataria on September 18, 2009

sent by a concerned reader

New Zealand Visitor Health Alert  Bulletin # 30

New Zealand’s cases of “flesh-eating” disease have surged by 300 percent since 1990

The astronomical rise in the necrotising fasciitis in New Zealand was revealed to scientists at the UK Health Protection Agency conference in Warwick, England.

The International Journal of Infectious Diseases has published a paper by Dr Dilip Das and others who identified necrotising fasciitis and cellulitis as emerging major health problems in New Zealand.

necrotising fasciitisLate diagnosed necrotizing fasciitis in a 43-year-old male.  Preoperative photograph on the day of admission. Extensive erythema and necrosis of the left leg. Source: Cases Journal. Image may be subject to copyright.

Das says the reasons for the meteoric  rise in the number of NZ cases remain a mystery,  known, “but the researchers had ruled out changes made in 2004 to the way diseases were recorded.” A report said.

The rare infection occurs in the deeper layers of skin and is typically caused by many types of bacteria entering an open wound, especially after major surgery.

The so-called “flesh-eating bug” destroys skin and muscle tissues by releasing potent toxins.

Patients usually complain of intense pain around the infection and as the disease spreads, skin will change to a violet colour before turning black when it dies.

The only way to stop the disease from spreading is by cutting away the infected flesh and tissue.  The infection has a 73 percent mortality rate, unless treated.

A 54-yo man, who was prescribed painkillers for arthritis is known to have died within hours of arriving at hospital.

When it was realised that he had the infection necrotising fasciitis surgeons amputated his left leg in a bid to save him but watched in horror as black areas spread to his abdomen while they were operating, an inquest heard.

Dr Das and his research team have found that the rate of spread of disease in New Zealand  has jumped from 0.4 (cases) per 100,000 people in 1990-1994 to 1.33 per 100,000 people in 1995-1999.

The incidence rate jumped higher still to 1.97 per 100,000 in the 2000-2006 period.

Over the same periods, the number of people dying from the infection also rose: “The average annual mortality rate rose significantly from 0.05 (people) per 100,000 in 1990-1994 to 0.43 per 100,000 in 2000-2006,” they said.

In 2002, New Zealand doctors were been told to be careful when using a common painkiller when treating children with chickenpox – because of a link to the flesh-eating disease.

The drug Nurofen, and similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine including Voltaren, have been linked to the disease.

Starship children’s hospital paediatrician Dr Lesley Voss urged doctors on the Ministry of Health website to be cautious when using ibuprofen in chickenpox.

“The mechanism by which NSAIDs increase the risk of [the disease] may be by impairment of the immune response, or by masking of the symptoms of secondary infection, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr Voss.

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5 Responses to “NZ Sees Surge in Flesh-Eating Disease Cases”

  1. […] Posted by feww on September 19, 2009 Global Health Alert  Bulletin # 30 – New Zealand cases of “flesh-eating” disease have surged by 300 percent […]

  2. Anonymous said

    […] NZ Sees Surge in Flesh-Eating Disease Cases « Apartheid New Zealand […]

  3. […] NZ Sees Surge in Flesh-Eating Disease Cases […]

  4. […] NZ Sees Surge in Flesh-Eating Disease Cases […]

  5. […] Global Health Alert  Bulletin #30 – New Zealand cases of “flesh-eating” disease have surged by 300 percent […]

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