du jour
Maternal Death In Quebec from necrotizing fasciitis
Mothers awaiting test results after 25-year-old mother dies of infection following normal childbirth & a second diagnosed with Strep A (a flesh-eating bacteria)
by Katherine Wilton        The Gazette                       Quebec, Canada

On Dec. 6, a 25-year-old woman, who had given birth to her third child three days earlier, died of an unknown illness. Her autopsy revealed that she had streptococcus group A, the bacteria that causes the deterioration of flesh. Her infant also tested positive for the disease, but survived after being treated with antibiotics.

On Thursday, a mother who had given birth at the hospital a few days earlier was readmitted after suffering from the disease's major symptoms, including a high fever, a sore throat and severe abdominal pain. Doctors stopped the progression of the bacteria with massive doses of antibiotics. The woman is still under observation at the hospital. Her child has not tested positive for the bacteria, but is being kept under observation at the hospital.

About 100 Quebecers get the flesh-eating disease every year, and about 15 die. The rare disease known medically as necrotizing fasciitis forced the amputation of Premier Lucien Bouchard's left leg in 1994. The disease is caused by a particularly vicious strain of the common streptococcal A bacteria, known in milder forms as the bug that gives you strep throat. In 1996 and 1997, six cases of flesh-eating disease have been reported on Montreal Island, two of them fatal. Last month, it killed a 29-year-old Montreal man. In that case, the bacteria is believed to have entered his body through a wound caused by an ingrown toenail.

Officials at several Montreal hospitals said yesterday they have not treated anyone with the bacteria in the past few days.

Mothers awaiting test results

Thirty-five mothers who gave birth at a Saint-Jérôme hospital this month will learn tomorrow morning whether they or their babies have been infected with the bacteria that triggers the so-called flesh-eating disease. Officials at Hôtel Dieu hospital tested the mothers, the babies and 80 hospital employees on Friday and Saturday, after a 25-year-old mother died of the disease and a second was diagnosed with the bacteria.

"We plan to call the mothers Tuesday morning and let them know if the tests are positive or negative," said Lysianne Langevin, a nurse at the hospital. "Anyone who tests positive will be given antibiotics and then sent home."

The hospital closed its obstetrics ward on Friday at noon. It reopened yesterday at 8 a.m. because staff who were given antibiotics on Friday needed 24 hours to become immunized against the bacteria. Three women scheduled to give birth at the Hôtel Dieu during the weekend were transferred to a hospital in Sainte-Eustache. When the ward was reopened yesterday morning, three expectant mothers were admitted. "As you can see, it is very quiet here today," said one nurse, as she and three of her colleagues chatted at the nurses' station. "But we are certainly getting a lot of calls from people with questions."

On Saturday, the ward was packed with the 35 mothers and babies born at the hospital between Dec. 3 and Dec. 12. They were being tested for signs of the bacteria. "We decided to test them as a precaution, because we had two instances in a short period of time," Langevin said.