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Views And Reviews

A rampant non-epidemic

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 11 June 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1576
  1. B Dixon

    The non-epidemic of necrotising fasciitis caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which hit Britain in the week of 16 May, was hardly unprecedented as media hype based on misinformation and misunderstanding. But it was surely unique for the failure of commentators, day after day, to check elementary facts and the reluctance of experts to still public anxiety.

    The furore began towards the end of the preceding week. A mysterious and horrific “flesh-eating bug” had emerged in Gloucestershire. It was variously described as a virus or bacterium, and doctors were baffled. Resistant to antibiotics, the “superbug” was destroying human flesh at the rate of an inch an hour. Then further cases came to light, some in Scotland, and the bug was said to be “rampant.” People throughout the country became frightened. Abroad, holiday plans for Britain …

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