'Flesh eating bacteria' may have caused death of a local woman

Friday, January 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Florida woman dies from an unusual illness while visiting her family in Oklahoma. 59-year-old Julie Mahoney died on Sunday at a Tulsa hospital. Her family says they were told she died from a Strep ’A’ infection, also known as the flesh-eating bacteria.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says Julie Mahoney used to live in Broken Arrow, and she was here to visit her daughters during Christmas when she became ill. Mahoney's family says she started feeling ill on Christmas Eve, that she had severe pain in her hip. She was rushed to St. Francis Hospital on Saturday and died the very next day. But they do confirm that Mahoney had a Strep ‘A’ infection in her blood.

Strep ‘A’ is the same bacteria that cause Strep throat. But in some rare cases, it causes what's known as "necrotizing fasciitis", sometimes called "flesh-eating bacteria". The hospital says Mahoney's injuries were "internal", not “external", so she didn't have the kind of visible wounds that people usually think of when they think of "flesh-eating bacteria". But the family asked for an autopsy, and they say they were told that based on the autopsy, Mahoney did have that disease.

This kind of disease is relatively rare, and is "not" highly contagious. But when people "do" get it, it is extremely deadly. It's still unclear where she might have picked up the infection, whether it was in Florida or Oklahoma, or somewhere in between.

She was a schoolteacher in Florida. All of her Oklahoma relatives have gone there for her funeral.