Alaska man treated for flesh-eating infection in Seattle

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 05, 2012 8:28 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A man from Juneau, Alaska, contracted a rare infection from flesh-eating bacteria and was in satisfactory condition in a Seattle hospital after being flown in for emergency treatment, hospital officials said on Thursday.

Ruben Pereyra was the latest person in the United States to suffer the flesh-eating disease that has also afflicted a Georgia graduate student who has had to undergo multiple amputations and a South Carolina woman who is a new mother of twins.

Pereyra arrived two weeks ago at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center from a Juneau hospital, Harborview spokeswoman Clare LeFond said.

Hospital officials did not give details about the extent, severity or circumstances of the case. But in an interview with the Juneau Empire newspaper, Pereyra's wife, Ana, said her husband apparently got the infection from a splinter in his hand.

She also told the paper that her husband had surgery and that an amputation was possible.

Necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating disease, can be caused when a wound is infected with group-A streptococci or by staphylococci, common bacteria that live on people's skin and in their noses.

Jim Strader, director of community relations for Juneau's Bartlett Regional Hospital, said he and other hospital officials in the Alaska capital had been assuring the public the disease was not communicable, he said.

"It's not an epidemic. It's not a reason to panic," he said, adding: "It's fortunately very rare. But it has a really high mortality rate."

The infection progresses rapidly and can quickly destroy muscles, skin and other tissues. "The wound sometimes looks like it's healed over, and then it comes back very, very quickly," Strader said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)