HOUSTON - A Spring family is in mourning after their young relative died from what doctors believe may have been a severe bacterial infection.
The medical examiner's office will determine if flesh eating bacteria, which has been in the headlines frequently this summer, is to blame for the boy's unexpected death.
Tevita Alatini, 7, loved swimming and being with his family. His uncle, Sione Niko said his nephew's death has rocked the family.
"He lived seven wonderful years you could say it's short or you could say it's been the best seven years of his life," Niko said.
During a family reunion in San Diego last week, Tevita's uncle said the boy was complaining about a rapidly growing rash under his arm.
His family immediately sought treatment but Tevita died before going into surgery.
Family members say Tevita had recently gone swimming in a lake at Camp Pendleton and wonder if flesh-eating bacteria may be to blame.
Dr. Charles Ericsson with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School is a specialist in infectious diseases.
According to Dr. Ericsson, bacterial organisms similar to the kind which cause flesh eating diseases can get under the skin.
"It also allows the organism to spread under the skin very rapidly and when it gets into the fascia [tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels] those blood vessels that serve the skin it causes them to clot off and now you lose your skin, the skin dies over that and that whole picture can be devastating," said Ericsson said.
He said it appears Tevita's family did everything right.
"Thankfully this is not a common thing, maybe only 6 or 800 cases a year out of how many skin infections, oh my there must be hundreds of thousands of them," Ericsson said.
Dr. Ericsson said such infections are extremely rare but if you do get a cut while swimming, he recommends cleaning it right away. You should also check for reddening or pain and if so, seek medical care quickly.
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