Six deaths this year from iGas disease


A WARNING over an increase in cases of the “frequently life-threatening” invasive Gas disease (iGas) has been issued to clinicians by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Severe forms of iGas include the flesh-eating bacteria necrotizing fasciitis.

There were 66 per cent more cases of iGas in the first six months of 2012 (75 cases) than the same period of 2011 (45 cases), said a notification by the centre in recent days. Half of these cases were in May and June.

There were three cases of the flesh-eating form in the first six months of 2012 (compared with three in total for 2011).

Six patients have died so far this year of iGas, the same as the total number of deaths last year.

Five deaths were from a severe strain of the iGas streptococcal toxic syndrome (STSS). STSS made up a quarter of all iGas cases (18) from January to June. There were just five STSS cases last year.

IGas infections are “acute, frequently life-threatening infections ranging from the more commonly encountered bacteraemia (bloodstream infection), cellulitis and pneumonia to the rarer meningitis puerperal sepsis and septic arthritis”, the notification said.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, consultant microbiologist with the centre, said yesterday iGas (invasive Gas disease) was from an infection of Group A Streptococcus (Gas). Gas “is a germ that is often found in the throat and on the skin”. Some people carry Gas with no symptoms and for others it causes mild illness (sore throat and skin infections).

“It is very unusual for Gas to cause more severe illness but it can happen. These infections are called invasive Gas disease (iGas), which can be life-threatening.”

Symptoms of iGas include fever, muscle aches, pain or swelling, redness at a wound, dizziness and a flat red rash over large areas of the body. The germ is spread through kissing, sneezing and close contact. The spread can be minimised by washing hands after coughing and before eating.