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Flesh-eating Bug Kills Boy in Hospital

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The teenager had been treated in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Flesh-eating bug claims life of boy

EBEN HARRELL

A PROMISING teenage hockey player has died of a rare flesh-eating bug while being treated in hospital for leukaemia.

Andrew Stewart, 15, from Dunfermline, died from necrotising fasciitis last Wednesday, less than two weeks after he had been admitted to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh with a form of leukaemia his parents had been told he had an 80 per cent chance of surviving.

His parents said the cancer treatment had weakened Andrew's immune system, making him vulnerable to the disease, which doctors believe had been lying dormant in his body.

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare condition which strikes when the otherwise benign streptococcus bacterium - a common cause of sore throats - invades the soft tissue under the skin.

It has a fatality rate of about 40 per cent.

It is not known where Andrew contracted the bug, but NHS chiefs said an investigation had found no evidence the infection was picked up at the hospital.

Yesterday, Andrew's father, Robert, spoke of how much his "outgoing, friendly, competitive and fit" son had been struck down by the bacteria so suddenly. The family had been told there was nothing they could do but comfort him in his final hours.

Andrew, a pupil at Dunfermline High School, was receiving treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and doctors were hopeful he would make a full recovery, when the bacteria struck.

Doctors had warned him he was susceptible to infection and put him through a strict hygiene regime.

But after Andrew noticed unusual swelling and bruising on his body, his family were alerted to the seriousness of his condition.

Mr Stewart said: "The onset of the infection was so fast. By the next night we were told all that could be done was to make sure he had a peaceful death.

"He hung on for another day and a half and we were able to speak to him and comfort him."

Mr Stewart added that his son had been a talented hockey player who had been awarded full colours by his school and had recently been promoted to the first team at the Dunfermline Carnegie Hockey club.

Andrew and his twin brother, Jamie, had represented East of Scotland at under-14 and under-15 levels.

Mr Stewart said: "Andrew was good at most sports. He joined the golf club as a junior in 2002 and won various monthly medal competitions, and then won the Andrew Carnegie trophy in 2005."

He added that his son had wanted to become a fireman when he left school. "Andrew was loved by all his family and friends and enjoyed living his life to the maximum," he said.

Necrotising fasciitis afflicts about 1,000 people a year in Britain.

Cases require urgent investigation and treatment. While the bacterium that causes the condition can be acquired in hospital, it usually strikes after lying dormant in a patient's throat or stomach.

Katherine Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Patients' Association, yesterday said NHS Lothian should work to reassure other patients in the hospital that they were not a risk from the disease.

She said: "When someone dies from a terrible disease like this, other patients will feel very concerned. Hopefully, the health board will be open and transparent, and inform people about exactly what happened."

Dr Alison McCallum, director of public health for NHS Lothian, the health board that runs the hospital, said: "

This terrible illness is most commonly found in people who have pre-existing serious medical conditions and therefore it can have devastating consequences.

"This was a tragic death and our thoughts are with the family at this very sad time."

She added: "We investigate all such deaths and we have found no evidence that the infection was picked up in hospital."

A funeral service for Andrew, known to his friends as Andy, is to be held at Dunfermline Crematorium today at 2:45pm.

Source The Scotsman

Last Updated ( Jun 01, 2006 at 07:34 PM )