New mum dies of rare strep infection in Palmerston North Hospital

New mum dies of rare strep infection in Palmerston North Hospital

Originally published on Stuff

A woman who developed a rare and overwhelming infection from a common bug after having a baby has died in Palmerston North Hospital.

She was one of three mothers found to have Strep A infections shortly after giving birth.

One of the births was at Palmerston North Hospital, and two were at the Te Papaioea Birthing Centre. The three women were cared for by independent midwives.

MidCentral District Health Board chief medical officer Ken Clark said laboratory tests confirmed that the cases, about four to six weeks ago, were not linked in any way.

Both facilities had since been through deep cleans following infection prevention and control processes.

All of the women were admitted to the hospital after the births. Two women were well, and so were all of the babies.

Clark said Group A Streptococci were very common bacteria which many people carried on the skin or in the throat without getting sick.

It was a bug which could cause impetigo (school sores), cellulitis, or infected eczema.

It caused "strep throat" which could occasionally lead to more serious and life-threatening illness such as rheumatic fever and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Women who had just given birth were vulnerable because their immune system was altered during pregnancy, and the large wound where the placenta came away after the baby's birth provided potential for bugs to get in and multiply.

Clark said the bug spread from person to person through contact with throat secretions or infected skin.

It could also be picked up through by touching contaminated objects or surfaces.

One of the best ways to prevent infection was through good hygiene, including thorough hand washing.

Infections were usually successfully treated with oral antibiotics, although sometimes intravenous antibiotics were needed.

Clark said the care and circumstances leading up to the woman's death would be fully investigated, and would be reported to the national Health Quality and Safety Commission.

The outcome of the review would be included in the annual report the health board releases alongside the Commission's adverse events report.

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