OFW dies from rare flesh-eating bacteria

Posted at 08/29/2012 3:02 PM | Updated as of 08/30/2012 6:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A couple’s happy reunion in Hong Kong ended tragically after the husband died from flesh-eating bacteria.

The love affair of overseas Filipino workers Emma and Arnold (not their real names) blossomed from a long distance relationship.

“Nasa Saudi po siya non nagtatrabaho. Nagkakilala lang po kami through sulatan tapos pagumuuwi ako yung time na yun umuwi din siya dito sa Pilipinas. Kasi 5 years siya sa Saudi,” said Emma.

The pair tied the knot in 2003, but they did not live together for long as married couple because Emma had to return to her work in Hong Kong.

Emma spent 23 years working in Hong Kong and her contract was supposed to end this year. Her husband had urged her to come home permanently but her employer didn’t want to let her go.

“Sabi niya gagawa na lang ako ng paraan para magkasama kayong magasawa. Sabi ko matagal na kaming kasal hindi pa kami nagsasama. Yun po ang ginawa ng employer ko, hinire siya,” Emma said.

After nine years of being away from each other, the opportunity came when her employer decided to hire her spouse.

Arnold left Manila for Hong Kong on August 3 but he died 10 days later.

“The following Friday yun, August 10, naglakad po siya along the beach kasi gusto daw niyang mag exercise,” she said.

On the afternoon of that same day, Arnold complained of leg pain. When he checked, he noted some bruising and the pain worsened all throughout the day.

“Mga bandang tanghali na nakakaramdam na siya ng sakit sa binti niya. Tapos medyo tumitindi. Ang kirot daw parang hiwa na binubugbog. So yung gabi na yun hindi na po siya talaga nakatulog the whole night dahil sa sakit,” she recalled.

Arnold was rushed to a hospital the following day after his blood pressure also dropped.

It was on that day when Emma learned the rare disease that hit her husband was called necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria.

“Sabi ng doctor kailangan nating buksan yung iyong binti para kumuha tayo ng tissue kasi meron kaming palaisipan na ito ay flesh-eating bacteria,” she said.

Her husband leg was amputated to save his life. However, he died on August 13.

Dr. Rey Salinel, an infectious disease specialist, explained that necrotizing fasciitis is a very rare disease.

“Kaya hindi masyadong napaguusapan ito. Pero lahat tayo--bata, matanda, lalaki, babae--pwede pong magkaroon nitong necrotizing faciitis,” Salinel said.

The most common site of the infection is the lower extremities and often infects people with weak immune system.

“Buong mundo meron nyan. Sa Pilipinas meron din yan,” he said.

According to the doctor, wounds, however small, are the common point of entry of the bacteria.

“Mamumula, magkakaroon ng parang sabaw-sabaw, blisters hanggang sa magiging dark red, violet, mangingitim, mabubulok,” he said.

The Philippines has no record of flesh-eating bacteria.

“Dahil po sa initial manifestation na parang trangkaso lamang, nami-miss diagnose ito at the same time, hindi nare-report, hindi nailalathala kaya akala ng mga tao ngayon lang yan,” he said.

He also advised those who may have been in direct contact with a person diagnosed with the flesh-eating disease.

“Yun pong mga duktor, mga paramedical, yung mga relatives na nagbabantay o humahawak doon sa pasyenteng diagnosed na necrotizing faciitis, at nakalimutang mag gloves pwedeng mabitbit niya sa bahay. Nai-shake hands, nagamit sa telepono, sa cellphone,” he said.

Salinel said the skin serves as the body’s number one protection.

“Wag na wag mong pupunitin, masusugatan, pagka nagkaroon ka ng ganun gamutin kaagad. Kinakailangang malinis ka sa iyong sarili laging maghugas ng kamay ng sabon at tubig,” he said. Report from Noli de Castro, TV Patrol