GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Campbell County Memorial Hospital has confirmed that three hospital patients in the past six weeks have contracted invasive Group A Streptococcus, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.
The hospital disclosed the cases Friday after denying in early September there had been such cases at the hospital recently, the Gillette News-Record reports (bit.ly/NMQNXV).
Hospital spokeswoman Karen Clarke said patient privacy rules prevented her from commenting on the patients' condition. The three patients were no longer at the hospital, she said.
Hospital CEO Bob Morasko would not comment on whether anyone died from the bacteria, citing advice from legal counsel not to discuss that.
State health officials have been notified, he said.
The hospital had been trying to reach its infectious disease specialist, Dr. Christopher Brown, on Friday but was unable to reach him, Morasko said.
Brown was due back at the hospital on Monday, he said, and would be asked to conduct a diagnosis on the samples.
"We'll still have him review it," Morasko said.
Usually any illness that results from Strep A is mild, with symptoms such as a sore throat. The bacteria can become life-threatening if they get into the blood stream, muscles or lungs.
Clarke said the disease does not transmit from patient to patient easily, unlike tuberculosis and other diseases which can be spread in the air.
"It usually gets into a wound, some kind of open area in the skin," said Della Amend, executive director of Campbell County Public Health. "It's rare. I don't have the exact statistics, but it's a rare occurrence."
She said proper hygiene, including hand-washing, is the best way to prevent any infection.
There have been several recent cases in the U.S. of flesh-eating bacteria, also called necrotizing fasciitis. A Georgia woman had both hands, her right foot and left leg amputated earlier this year after she contracted the bacteria.
Several other cases have been recently reported, including an inmate in Illinois who died earlier this month.
Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com