Army recruit gets flesh-eating disease at basic training, loses leg

Stockton, Calif. — A Stockton, California, family is calling for consequences after their son contracted a rare flesh-eating disease, CBS Sacramento reports. The family of Dez Del Barba, a 21-year-old soldier who enlisted in the California National Guard late last year, says a lack of medical treatment at an army base led to his condition.

Del Barba has gone through 14 surgeries at three hospitals since mid-February, including one to amputate his left leg above the knee, according to CBS affiliate WRBL. Large amounts of muscle and tissue have been removed from his body in a fight to halt the rapid spread of necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection that spreads quickly and can be deadly.

Rapid antibiotic treatment and prompt surgery are key in stopping the infection in its tracks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The problem started when Del Barba was six weeks into basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He had a simple sore throat. The sore throat led to a strep test, and a throat culture was sent off for a closer look. The first test came back negative, but another was positive, according to medical records obtained by the Del Barba family.

They say doctors waited another 24 hours before notifying Del Barba.

He had to be rushed from Martin Army Hospital in Fort Benning to a private hospital in Columbus, Georgia, and surgeons immediately began to remove infected tissue by operating, according to WRBL.

“It’s the most heartbreaking feeling a parent can feel,” Mark Del Barba said in a statement. “My son’s life has been forever altered and his future as a soldier for the United States Army has been destroyed by pure negligence.”

As of Tuesday night, Del Barba was at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and listed in good condition, WRBL reported, citing a hospital spokesman. He will soon be fitted for a prosthetic leg and start physical therapy, according to CBS Sacramento. His army class graduates Friday.

Officials at Fort Benning released a statement saying, “The safety and care of our soldiers and personnel at Fort Benning is our utmost concern. Sometimes the environment or high-risk training results in illness, injury, or sadly, even death.”

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