A freshman football player at El Diamante High became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria that attacked his hand and required surgery.
Camil Flores posted a photo of her son Matthew’s hand on Facebook, which has been shared more than 9,000 times.
He reported getting a cut on his hand from a football helmet, she wrote on her Facebook page.
The El Diamante football program has since cleaned the hard surfaces of all football equipment on the advice of the Tulare County Public Health Department, said Suzie Skadan, director of health services at Visalia Unified School District.
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The school also sent a letter home to parents of football players to be on the lookout for skin infections and seek immediate attention if they see anything.
The boy contracted group A streptococcus, or group A strep, the letter said.
“Most group A strep infections are relatively mild illnesses, such a ‘strep throat’ or impetigo (a skin infection). Occasionally, these bacteria can cause serious and even life-threatening diseases,” the letter said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The surgeon said that she had never seen anything so bad and she was afraid he was going to lose his finger.
Camil Flores, mother of boy infected with flesh-eating bacteria
When the bacteria attacks muscle, fat and skin, it causes necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called flesh-eating bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County health officer, said in a statement, “The CDC advises that necrotizing fasciitis caused by group A strep is rare and is rarely spread from person to person. The condition is caused by the bacteria entering through a break in the skin such as from a cut, puncture wound or insect bite. Prompt wound cleaning and keeping any open wound covered are important steps in prevention.
“Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis caused by group A strep can start quickly after a wound occurs and include severe pain, redness, swelling and warmth at the site, fever, chills and vomiting. If an individual has any of these symptoms after having a wound, prompt medical attention is needed.”
Camil Flores said in her Facebook post Saturday that her son’s infection started as a “small nick on his middle finger from his football helmet that he got at practice on Monday and within hours he was throwing up with a headache.”
The next morning, his middle finger was alarmingly swollen, so she took him to urgent care.
There, a doctor “took one look at it and sent him immediately to the ER,” she wrote. He was later taken to Valley Children’s Hospital and was operated on Wednesday.
“The surgeon said that she had never seen anything so bad and she was afraid he was going to lose his finger,” Flores wrote.
He was released from the hospital Saturday.
His mother wrote on Facebook that her son has wanted to play football at El Diamante since elementary school.
Matthew dressed out for the first game of the season two weeks ago but did not play, the school district said. Last week he could not play because he was in the hospital.
On Labor Day, the school used hospital-grade disinfectant wipes to clean the football equipment at El Diamante and took the extra step of doing that same at the three other high schools in Visalia, area superintendent Jeff Hohne said.
Other teams in the league were not formally notified of the situation involving the El Diamante player.
Jim Crichlow, California Interscholastic Federation central section commissioner, said Tuesday that athletic departments have dealt with communicable diseases before.
“I’m sure they’ll do everything they are supposed to do, no question,” he said.