South African tourist unlikely to survive the weekend, say doctors

By Elizabeth Binning

Critically ill South African tourist Tayla Storm is not expected to make it through the weekend.

The 28-year-old childcare student, who featured on the front page of yesterday's Herald, has been in Auckland Hospital fighting a Staphylococcus aureus infection since April.

Yesterday morning, as members of the public offered support, suggested alternative remedies and donated towards her extensive medical bill, her family were told she has only 24 to 48 hours to live.

The family say they have been flooded with support since the article about how the bug mysteriously struck Miss Storm down six weeks into a holiday here to visit her newborn nephew.

Doctors have been unable to say how she caught the bacterial infection and her immune system is now too weak to take any further treatment.

Some people have donated to an appeal account set up to help pay for Miss Storm's $280,000 medical bill.

A funeral home has offered to waive the fee for her Catholic burial service.

Auckland District Health Board spokesman Mark Fenwick said the hospital's main priority at this stage was providing care for Miss Storm and support for her family.

The issue of her medical bills would be addressed once her treatment had finished.

When a patient dies, the hospital usually tries to recover the costs from their estate, which in this case could end up being her next of kin.

After arriving in March, Miss Storm spent six weeks splitting her time between relatives and visiting tourist spots, including Goat Island near Warkworth, where she snorkelled with fish.

She was touring the North Island when she noticed an odd feeling in her right thigh on April 19.

That night, she realised something was "horribly wrong" and was rushed to North Shore Hospital, where doctors discovered her entire system was being overwhelmed with sepsis (blood poisoning) caused by an infection.

HOW THE LETHAL BUG WORKS

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium carried by humans, cows, pigs and poultry.

The most vulnerable to infection are the small or sick. It is one of the top three fatal infections for premature babies.

It lives on the skin and mucous membranes - and invades the body through cuts and scrapes or the nostrils.

The bug can cause skin abscesses, post-operative wound infections and pneumonia, and, through the toxins it produces, toxic shock syndrome.

It is carried by 20 per cent of the population and is harmless in most people.

Infections are common in people with frequent skin injury, particularly if their skin is dry.

It may be lethal if the bug develops resistance to antibiotics, including some penicillins. A strain called Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is resistant to broad spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat "superbugs". Incidence of superbug infections has risen sharply in the past 20 years. About 8 per cent of Auckland region infections are MRSA. An estimated 8000 cases of MRSA occurred in New Zealand in 2007.

Staphylococcus aureus can also get into food through contact by people infected with the bacteria. Food poisoning results two to four hours after toxins are consumed.

Usually no treatment is given except for administering fluids and the patient recovers within two days. The bacteria are usually killed by cooking and pasteurisation and sanitisers and disinfectants will destroy them on surfaces. About 40 cases of food-related illness caused by the bug are reported a year in New Zealand.

Anyone wanting to donate to the Tayla Storm Appeal Account can make a deposit at BNZ or via the internet into the account: 02-0108-0163899-000

- NZ Herald

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