Ronald Ancheta and his wife Estrellita, both dreamt of living together as husband and wife after they got married. These two overseas Filipino workers met each other through correspondence when Ronald was still working in Saudi Arabia as a pastry chef, while Estrellita was a domestic help in Hong Kong.
Their jobs prevented them from being together, but the couple’s prayer was answered when Estrellita’s employer decided to hire Ronald. On August 3, Ronald flew to Hong Kong. But 10 days after, their reunion ended tragically. Ronald died of necrotizing fasciitis, or more popularly known as flesh-eating bacteria.
Dr. Rey Salinel, an infectious disease doctor and a diabetologist, explained to Radyo Klinika that this disease is rare but can happen to anyone who has an open wound and whose immune system has weakened. “The most opportunistic bacteria here is the Streptococcus pyogenes, which is naturally inside our body. It activates when the immune system has been compromised, particularly when one has diabetes and cancer or is an organ transplant patient or an elderly.”
Streptoccocus bacteria is also commonly responsible for mild cases of sore throat, skin infections, like boils or toxic shock syndrome.
“This infection usually starts from simple puncture wounds. From the tissues below the skin, the infection spreads on the fascia or the flat layers of the tissue which separate the different layers of muscle and fat. The infection produces toxins that destroy these tissues,” said Dr. Salinel.
Oftentimes, nectrotizing fasciitis is misdiagnosed as just plain flu when the patient is not aware that he has an infected wound. “Patients complain of fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain without noticing that they already have a wound which has started getting red and swollen. Blisters could also form around the wound and the redness in the skin can change to violet, until the tissues die,” said Dr. Salinel.
Strong antibiotics and immediate hospitalization are the best treatment for this kind of disease. “But in the case of Ronald, his uncontrolled diabetes got the better of him. Yes, his gangrenous leg was amputated but it was already too late—the toxin has already entered his blood stream,” related Dr. Salinel, who also said that the nectrotizing fasciitis can be fatal in just 24 to 48 hours upon entry of the bacteria.
In Hong Kong, there have been 69 documented cases of death due to necrotizing fasciitis since 2007.
“Actually, this is happening all over the world. We just have to be cautious and take care of our immune system in order to avoid this disease. Wash your hands and affected areas with soap and water, check your body for wounds or lesions and see a doctor if you have an unusual wound or sharp pain in your lower extremities,” said Dr. Salinel.
The doctor also made it clear that the disease is not contagious, unless the infected part of a patient gets in direct contact with the open wound or abrasions of another person.
Dr. Salinel holds clinic at Balbidos Clinical Laboratory on Harrison Street, Pasay City, from Monday to Saturday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Contact him at 0942.471.4353.
Radyo Klinika is a KBP Golden Dove Awardee for Best Radio Magazine Program in 2016. Its host, Marou Pahati-Sarne, was twice named as Best Radio Magazine Program Host in 2016 and 2017. The radio program airs Tuesday to Friday, 7 to 8 p.m. E-mail: email@example.com for requests for interview.