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Did man get flesh-eating bacteria hiking in NH?

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 22. 2017 9:55PM
Wayne Atkins, left, is pictured with his mother, Karen Atkins, on her Facebook page. He is recovering after spending nearly a month in a Miami hospital and surviving a two-week coma following a bout with flesh-eating bacteria. Doctors credit antibiotics and surgery with saving his life. Prior to returning to Florida and getting sick, Atkins hiked June 5 in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and got a bad blister on his foot. (FACEBOOK)

MOUNT GARFIELD — A 32-year-old Florida man is recovering from a flesh-eating bacteria that he said nearly killed him.

Today’s Granite State water cooler mystery is whether Wayne Atkins of Miami could have possibly contracted the insides-devouring ailment while hiking this 4,000-footer in the White Mountains.

Some headlines put the blame on New Hampshire for Atkins’ misfortune.

“To say that someone acquired it in New Hampshire and we have flesh-eating bacteria isn’t exactly accurate,” said Beth Daly, chief of the Infectious Disease Bureau for the New Hampshire Division of Public Health.

“You never will know where the bacteria came from, but most people are getting the bacteria first from themselves.”

Here’s what we do know:

It was June 4 when Atkins came to New Hampshire to celebrate a family wedding.

And, Atkins said, while here he went for a hike on Mount Garfield located at the western edge of the White Mountains in Grafton County.

Atkins said he got some blisters, but that’s typical, so he ignored them until he came back to Miami and started feeling sick.

“As you probably saw by now, I’ve been in the hospital about a month now with a pretty crazy (and common) infection,” Atkins posted on Facebook late last week.

Infectious Disease Chief Daly said Atkins’ failure to properly treat his wound is likely what led to the life-threatening condition.

“We don’t have any knowledge of his individual circumstances,” Daly said. “Our thoughts are with the family, and we are glad to hear he is doing better.”

According to media reports, Daly said, Miami doctors found Atkins had Group A Streptococcus, which is the bacteria that can lead to strep throat or impetigo.

“He could have had it in his own throat. He could have gotten it from other people before he came to New Hampshire to hike,” Daly said.

“The bacteria then entered the wound and led to this unusual complication that does occur in up to 1,000 cases across the country every year.”

Doctors at University of Miami Hospital said the bacteria was stopped through antibiotics and surgery.

“Most people don’t go on to develop this, especially if you have a strong immune system but it can happen,” Daly said.

For his part, Atkins said he was grateful just to be alive given what he went through.

“I came pretty close to death at one point, but now, thanks to the love of friends, family, God and a phenomenal medical staff, I now appear to be a couple skin grafts and some rehab away from a full recovery (a couple more weeks),” he said.

Daly said Atkins could have gotten the bacteria while swimming in a pool in Florida if his wound wasn’t properly covered.

“It is a very important message. When people develop wounds they must keep them dry, clean and covered. And a wound to watch for is one of any size or type; it can be a cut, a burn, even a bug bite,” Daly said.

Family members from Norwell, Mass., said Atkins was left in a two-week coma early on because his organs were shutting down.

University of Miami Hospital’s Dr. Jonathan Auerbach told WSVN-TV in Miami it’s important to note that while the bacteria is common, advancing all the way to the flesh-eating variety is not; the odds are about 250,000 to 1.

“If this is not treated appropriately, the mortality rate, the chance of dying, is 100 percent,” Auerbach said.

M.J. Gaudreau, Wayne’s cousin from Brockton, Mass., said on social media Friday night that this survival story is remarkable.

“Not only is Wayne lucky to have such support from his loved ones but I think him and I might have bff angels up there watching over such critical times,” she wrote.

“Wayne...i know i just wrote a book here lol, but with much love, I’m very, very happy you are doing so much better! Lots of love n prayers your way cous!”

From his hospital bed, Atkins tried to keep his sense of humor during a broadcast interview Friday.

“I don’t think I’ll ever want to play the Lotto again, if that’s what hitting the jackpot feels like,” he quipped.

Environment Health White Mountains

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