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December 12, 2019

Larkana boy mauled by stray dogs succumbs to flesh-eating disease


December 12, 2019

Larkana’s six-year-old Hasnain, who was being treated at Karachi’s National Institute of Child Health (NICH) after his face and scalp were bitten off by a pack of stray dogs last month, died on Wednesday due to a flesh-eating infection and multi-organ failure, said the hospital’s administration.

“Hasnain passed away this morning after fighting massive infections for two weeks. The family has left for Larkana for the burial,” NICH Director Prof Dr Jamal Raza told The News. He said the boy had been on life support after his wounds were infected with the deadly necrotizing fasciitis.

Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating disease, is a rare and serious bacterial infection that can progress rapidly. It can occur if a bacterial infection enters a break in the skin as a result of trauma or surgery.

“Necrotizing fasciitis attacks the deeper layers of skin and the tissues that lie under the skin, called the fascia. It spreads easily through the tissue that covers the muscles and lies beneath the skin,” said Dr Raza.

He said the infection affects muscle and fat tissue due to the bacteria releasing toxins, adding that the condition can result in shock as well as organ failure. With Hasnain’s passing away, the number of people who have died due to rabies encephalitis and canine attacks has risen to 24 in Sindh, said officials. They added that more than 250 people, mostly women and children, are attacked by stray dogs across the province on a daily basis.

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho expressed sorrow and grief over the minor’s demise, saying that the doctors at the NICH tried their best to treat the ill-fated boy but unfortunately, he could not survive.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Hasnain’s death. We tried our best to provide quality treatment but unfortunately, due to the infection spreading and Hasnain’s immune system being weak, he couldn’t survive,” Dr Azra said in a statement.

She said it is very difficult for a parent to cope with their child’s death, and prayed for strength and patience for his family to deal with their immense loss.

She added that the Larkana deputy commissioner has been instructed to facilitate the family with the child’s last rites. “The Sindh government is working towards neutering and vaccinating dogs, and we hope that once that is done, dog-bite cases will reduce.”

The boy was mauled by five to six stray dogs in Larkana on November 14. They had bitten off most of his face, including his nose, both cheeks, eyelids, one of the ears and part of his scalp.

The child was brought from Larkana to Karachi’s Indus Hospital, from where he was taken to the NICH, where a team of surgeons performed a life-saving reconstruction surgery

on him.

“The surgeons were planning to perform more surgeries on the boy for the reconstruction of his face, but we were more concerned about saving his life. Preventing him from infection was the main objective, but due to the nature of his wounds, he contracted necrotizing fasciitis,” said Dr Raza.

Savage attack

Hasnain had just stepped out of his home to fetch something from a nearby shop, his father Ghulam Hussain told the media on November 15, when a pack of five to six dogs attacked him and mauled him almost to death by biting off most of his face and scalp.

“By the time some passers-by reached there, the dogs had bitten off his entire face, including both cheeks, nose, ears, eyelids and most of the skin on his head. We took him to the Chandka Medical Centre, but after giving some initial treatment, the medical superintendent asked us to take him to Karachi to save his life.”

But the worse had yet to come for the critically injured boy and his family after they were refused treatment by the Indus Hospital’s administration, citing lack of an intensive care unit and space, and the Civil Hospital Karachi’s administration also refused to admit the child, asking them to take him to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).

“Neither the government hospital in Larkana nor the two hospitals in Karachi tried to save the life of my child. At last I managed to reach the NICH, where doctors performed an hours-long surgery on him,” Hussain said. He cursed the Sindh’s government and the health authorities for their failure to provide treatment to the poor people of the province.

A team of four surgeons — plastic surgeon Ghulam Shabir and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Jahan-e-Alam from the JPMC, and Dr Anwar Arain and Dr Jamshaid of the NICH — performed the surgery and tried to reconstruct the face of the child.

Dr Raza had said that prior to the surgery the child was vaccinated against rabies and other infectious diseases, while he was being given every possible treatment to save his life. He had urged the parents to take care of their children and protect them from stray dogs, which could cause life-threatening injuries.

JPMC Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali had said she sent her two surgeons to the NICH to help their surgeons with the face reconstruction surgery. She deplored that incidents of canine attacks, especially against children, were on the rise with every passing day.

“There is an immediate need to control the population of stray dogs as early as possible or we would continue to see deaths and misery due to canine attacks in Karachi and the rest of the province. It is to be decided whether to kill them or lock them up somewhere away from the city immediately, but we don’t have time to wait for their population to end through sterilisation.”