Flesh eating bug kills 7 children in just two years
SEVEN children have died from a lethal flesh eating bug that has been spreading here over the past two years.
The terrifying disease is now killing in higher numbers than meningitis and more than half of the 66 children who contracted the infection had to be treated in hospital intensive care units, with 70pc needing surgery.
The invasive Group A Streptococcus infection (iGAS) hit three times as many girls as boys and 42pc of those infected were aged two years or younger.
In some cases the disease was so aggressive that doctors had “little time for effective intervention”, a major European conference in Dublin has heard.
Two Irish doctors, Prof Karina Butler, consultant pediatrician at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, and Dr Juliette Lucey, from the infectious diseases departments at Our Lady’s and Temple Street Children’s Hospitals, described a “resurgence” of iGas in this country in the past two years.
They told the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases in the National Conference Centre that 66 children were identified with confirmed or probable iGAS infection in the past two years.
Seven of these children died and half of the infected children were admitted to hospital intensive care units. They included 15 children with severe breathing difficulties, pneumonia and other serious lung and throat conditions.
Surgery was needed in 70pc of cases to insert chest drains for complicated lung abscesses, remove infected skin around wounds or make incisions to relieve pressure.
Prof Butler said that one-in-five children developed iGas as a complication of chickenpox, but almost half (42pc) had no identifiable risk factor.
She stressed the need for an effective vaccine and also said more vaccinations against chickenpox could prevent up to 20pc of the iGas cases.
iGas is now killing more children than meningitis in children’s hospital across the country. It has a rate of more than 10pc compared to 3-5pc for meningitis in children and young people in this country.
“Much of the spotlight in recent years has been on diseases such as meningitis, whooping cough and other well-known infections in children,” she added.
“iGAS infections in children and young people are now on the rise in Ireland and most likely in other developed nations too.”
The infectious disease expert also said that while over 50pc of the children needed to be treated in intensive care units, most of them had no identifiable risk for severe disease.
“Early identification and appropriate treatment and, ultimately GAS vaccination, are needed if outcomes are to improve,” she said.
The infection is difficult to diagnose but prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential and surgically removing infected tissue “may be life-saving”.