Beware the Flu, Part Three

Flu season is in full, deadly swing in the U.S., with terrible stories popping up; like this 6-year-old child who died soon after paramedics told her parents that trouble breathing was a common symptom of the flu and to keep her hydrated. Her parents also want people to know that their daughter did not receive a flu vaccine and they are encouraging children to be vaccinated. While this year’s flu vaccine is not a perfect match, it can still reduce the severity of the symptoms.

The flu is so rampant it led to a misdiagnosis for this woman, who actually has necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh eating bacterial infection. The woman is expected to survive, but doctors had to remove 30% of the skin on the left side of her body.

Hospitals in California have had to set up giant medical tents intended for major disasters to handle the influx of patients.

“It’s like trying to surf a tsunami,” said Dr. Brian Johnston, an emergency medicine doctor at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights. “Maybe the wave has crested, one hopes.”

Another complication to this year’s flu is that many of the IV saline bags used to treat flu patients are made in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Hospitals have resorted to two other methods: the “IV push” in which a nurse directly injects the drugs into an IV line (time consuming), and using “an old-fashioned system known as a buretrol device”, also time consuming because many younger nurses need to be trained in this outdated method.

There are only a handful of manufacturers in the US, and one of them – Baxter International – has all of its mini-bag factories in Puerto Rico…Though the federal government has worked with Baxter to get the plants back online, and to allow it to import IV fluids from abroad, serious shortages persist.

Earlier:
Beware the Flu
Beware the Flu, Part Two

When Death Lurks in the Water

Two people have died from flesh-eating bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis) believed to be caused by the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters. A 31 year old man who was working on recovery projects in the area and a 77 year old woman who contracted an infection when cleaning debris have died.  From CNN:

Necrotizing fasciitis spreads quickly, destroying the body’s soft tissue, and can become lethal within a very short time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, treatment with antibiotics can prevent death if diagnosed quickly. In some cases, surgery is needed to prevent the spread of this infection, which can be caused by more than one type of bacteria.
“The bacteria that caused necrotizing fasciitis are not strange or unique bacteria,” said Dr. David Persse, public health authority for the city of Houston. He explained these bacteria can live in swimming pools or natural bodies of water, and the flood waters, contaminated by sewage and fecal matter, just “happened to have more” bacteria than other bodies of water.
Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, where many people still don’t have access to clean water over a month after Hurricane Maria, an outbreak of leptospirosis is feared. Puerto Rico has reported at least 76 cases of suspected and confirmed leptospirosis, including a handful of deaths, reports Dr. Carmen Deseda, the state epidemiologist for Puerto Rico. On average, 60 cases are usually reported in a whole year. From the Huffington Post:
Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals, including rats, pigs, dogs and horses. When a person comes into contact with water, mud or soil that has been contaminated by an infected animal’s urine, the bacteria can enter the body through open abrasions or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current conditions in Puerto Rico are ripe for this type of infection…leptospirosis can be treated early on by using antibiotics. If left untreated, in some strains of the disease, patients may hemorrhage in the lungs or experience kidney failure and die.