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October 9, 2013

Idaho boy survives flesh-eating bacteria

The Associated Press

DIETRICH, Idaho — A southern Idaho boy returned home this week from the hospital after a terrifying bout with a flesh-eating bacteria that doctors once feared would kill him.

Slade Dill, an eighth-grader at Dietrich School near Twin Falls, was playing tag at school Sept. 18 when he cut his knee.

The Twin Falls Times-News reports what initially appeared to be "no big deal" became far worse: Slade's leg began to swell, and CT scans showed the infection had spread to his abdomen and chest.

Doctors in Idaho quickly flew him to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. A runner, Slade could have lost his leg.

But doctors didn't amputate — because they didn't expect him to live, said his mother, Dixie Dill.

Slade defied their expectations and is projected to make a complete recovery after arriving home in Dietrich on Monday. He'll be taking antibiotics every day, and he'll get his stitches out from his surgery in two or three weeks.

"Whatever they say, we are going to do it and be thankful," Dixie Dill said.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection most commonly carried by a cough or sneeze from someone carrying the group A Strep bacteria  — the same one that causes common strep throat —  which can then be transmitted to an open wound by touch.

Typically, people who are most at risk have weakened immune systems.

That's one of the confounding details about Slade's case: He was in seemingly perfect health, an active cross-country runner for his school.

Twin Falls dermatologist Chris Scholes did not see or treat Slade but is familiar with necrotizing fasciitis, having seen the condition personally twice in his career.

He said Slade's parents made the right move, to seek help quickly.

Doctors were also to be commended, Scholes added.

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"The disease is easy to misdiagnose. It may start with a red spot on the skin," Scholes said. "The infection goes deeper beneath the skin and can move relatively quickly and get serious fast."