Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2001

Second Bonner Springs boy contracts debilitating strep

Another student at area elementary school hospitalized with infection

January 11, 2001

A second student at Bonner Springs Elementary School has become infected with group A strep and is being treated at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Eight-year-old Jason Hutzel, a second grader at the school, was diagnosed with group A strep approximately a week ago, after his parents took him to the hospital.

Eleven-year-old Tony Holmes has been hospitalized since Dec. 13, when he stopped breathing and collapsed at his home. Doctors diagnosed Tony with group A strep which had developed into toxic shock syndrome. Holmes remains in critical condition at Children's Mercy Hospital and doctors have told the family his recovery may take between eight months and a year.

Lynn Hutzel, Jason's mother, said her son got sick while spending the night at a friend's house on New Year's Eve. He came home early the next morning. On Wednesday, Frank Hutzel, Jason's father, noticed his son's wrists were becoming swollen and took him to Fort Leavenworth Veterans Administration Medical Center.

After arriving there, doctors told the family to take Jason to Children's Mercy Hospital, where he was diagnosed as having group A strep that developed into toxic shock syndrome. Doctors put Jason on a respirator and dialysis Friday, but he has since been taken off of dialysis. His mother said doctors are hopeful they can take Jason off the respirator soon.

Lynn said she also tested positive for group A strep, but doctors told her that Jason's strain of the virus was much worse. She was given penicillin and is doing fine.

According to the Center for Disease Control, group A strep is a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin. Many people may actually carry the bacteria without having any symptoms of illness. In most cases, group A strep infections are mild and result in what is commonly known as "strep throat."

However, about 300 people a year in the United States, including Tony and Jason, develop Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is the most invasive form of group A strep. STSS causes blood pressure to drop rapidly and organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs to fail. More than 50 percent of patients with STSS die, according to the CDC.

Group A strep is spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of people infected with the bacteria or through contact with infected wounds on the skin.

Early signs of STSS include fever, dizziness, confusion and a flat, red rash over large areas of the body. In addition, as Jason's father notice, pain and swelling is also an early sign. It is important to seek treatment immediately to reduce the risk of death from the more invasive forms of group A strep, such as STSS and the flesh-eating necrotizing fasciitis many people have heard about.

The best ways to prevent catching group A strep is by washing hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing and before preparing food or eating, according to the CDC.

Some parents at the elementary school are concerned about their children getting sick. Rachel Mortensen said she has a second grader and a kindergartner at the school and she isn't sure what to think at this point.

"I'm really keeping my eyes on things and cautioning my children a lot," Mortensen said. "I know the school is trying not to alarm people, but I don't know if I should be."

According to the CDC, "It is not necessary for all persons exposed to someone with an invasive group A strep infection (for example, necrotizing fasciitis or STSS) to receive antibiotic therapy to prevent infection. However, in certain circumstances, antibiotic therapy may be appropriate. That decision should be made after consulting with your doctor."

Tammy Eldridge, principal at Bonner Springs Elementary School, said she has been in contact with both the state and the county health departments about the issue and they told her the best way to handle things was by making sure students practice good hygiene.

Eldridge said the school has also taken the extra precaution of washing computers, desks and the cafeteria area with a bleach solution.

The school has scheduled an assembly with Scrubby Bear through the American Red Cross, Eldridge said.

The assembly is designed to teach students how to wash their hands correctly using ultra-violet lights and special soap to show students any areas they may miss.

Eldridge said she hasn't had a flood of parents calling her worried about their own children contracting the virus.

"The calls I've been receiving are calls to see what they can do for the families involved," Eldridge said.

Students are concerned about the situation, but Eldridge said they are not fearful for their own health as far as she knows.

"They're worried about their classmates and they wish they were here, but they're not worried about catching it as far as I can tell," Eldridge said.

Students have been encouraged to make cards and even audiotape messages to their hospitalized friends, Eldridge said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.