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East Ventura County Focus

THOUSAND OAKS : 'Flesh-Eating' Disease Kills Agoura Man

March 10, 1995|IRA E. STOLL

Complications from a fast-spreading bacterial infection claimed the life Thursday of an Agoura man, who was transferred to a Thousand Oaks hospital for specialized treatment.

The virulent strep infection, known to the public as "flesh-eating" bacteria, also led to the death last November of Ventura County Community College District Chancellor Thomas G. Lakin.

Officials at Los Robles Regional Medical Center and the Ventura County coroner's office refused to release the victim's name or occupation, citing his family's desire for privacy.

The man, said to be 39 or 40 years old, arrived at the emergency room at Westlake Medical Center on Monday night complaining about his "severe chronic illness," Managing Director K.D. Justyn said. He was transferred to Los Robles on Wednesday morning after doctors at Westlake realized he required the more sophisticated care available there.

"Everything appropriate was done," Justyn said.

After arriving at Los Robles and undergoing tests there, the patient entered surgery. Marketing Director Jill Donahue said doctors planned to amputate his arm, which was infected with the bacteria, known to scientists as "necrotizing fasciitis."

Donahue said the doctors realized during the operation that the bacteria had spread throughout his body. The patient died at 2:30 a.m., about 10 hours after leaving surgery, Donahue said.

Donahue said it was the first case of necrotizing fasciitis that the hospital has treated this year. Of five cases it handled in 1994, only the Lakin case ended in death, she said.

Lakin's family has filed a lawsuit against Los Robles and the doctors there who treated the chancellor. On Thursday, their lawyer questioned Westlake Medical Center's treatment of the latest victim of the disease.

"If he went in on Monday and he didn't get transferred until Wednesday, I would think that is something that needed to be looked into. That doesn't sound right," attorney Sandra Tyson said.

But Justyn said the fast-moving disease is hard to detect.

"People think they have a sign on their head that they have the disease," she said. "This thing is just so difficult. It runs so quickly through the body."

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