Boy dies in flesh disease outbreak

A 10-year-old boy has died and a 71-year-old woman is seriously ill in hospital after contracting the flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis.

Alan Mitchell died after being admitted to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow. Doctors who operated on a deep infection in his leg said yesterday that he may have contracted the bug after being bitten by a pupil at the special school he attended before Christmas.

Alan, a Down's Syndrome child, was first admitted to hospital last week. He was sent home last Tuesday after doctors diagnosed a viral infection. But his condition worsened. He returned to hospital and died on Sunday after undergoing a three-hour operat i on. He was buried on Wednesday.

Elizabeth Sutherland, sister of the former Beirut hostage Tom Sutherland, is in a serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit of Falkirk Royal Infirmary, near Glasgow. Miss Sutherland was admitted on Sunday suffering from a throat disorder. Doctors operated when the flesh-eating disease was identified, cutting out the affected cells.

A hospital spokesman said yesterday that there was no connection between Miss Sutherland's case and that of a young mother who contracted the disease at the same hospital last October after giving birth by Caesarian section.

Mr Sutherland, who was freed from captivity in Beirut in 1991, said yesterday that he planned to visit his sister.

Last year, almost 20 people died and many received emergency surgery after an outbreak of necrotising fasciitis across Britain.

Alasdair Fyfe, a consultant surgeon, said the condition was "exceptionally rare" in children and added: "In my experience and that of my paediatric colleagues with around 100 years of experience we have seen only three cases."

Dr Charles Clark, medical director of Yorkhill Hospital Trust, said: "Many surgeons will go through a whole lifetime of practice and never see a case of this."

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