Flesh-eating disease hits North

A DEADLY flesh-eating bacteria has affected at least seven people in the North, with one needing an arm amputation.

The Launceston General Hospital is treating four patients in an outbreak of necrotizing fasciitis.

The frightening disease is caused by a range of bacteria that enter the body through open wounds or small cuts, releasing toxins that rapidly kill flesh and muscle.

One patient had an arm amputated and another had part of their buttocks removed.

Tasmanian infectious diseases physician Katie Flanagan said the disease was not contagious, and could not be spread through human contact.

Dr Flanagan said several people had recently developed the disease, which can lead to death.

‘‘At the moment it appears that a number of different germs caused the condition in different persons,’’ Dr Flanagan said.

‘‘A common feature among those affected has been skin injuries which had become infected.

‘‘Patients are being managed with broad spectrum antibiotics, and all have had surgery to remove the affected tissue.’’

Dr Flanagan said Tasmania typically records between 10 and 20 cases of the disease a year.

She said that while there was no need for alarm, anyone with a particularly painful, infected wound or spreading soft tissue injury should seek medical advice.

‘‘While there is no reason to suspect any risk to the public, the LGH is liaising with Public Health to gain further information and background data to understand the reason for this unusual increase in cases,’’ she said.

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