Sudden Unexpected Death in a Child With Varicella Caused by Necrotizing Fasciitis and Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome

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A 4-year-old child with chickenpox infection for 5 days prior to death complained of swelling and pain in his right leg that required medical assistance in the emergency department. Radiologic study was normal, and analgesic and bandage of the leg were prescribed. Some hours later, he presented cyanosis, dizziness, and vomiting and collapsed. A complete forensic autopsy was performed 12 hours after death. External examination of the body showed numerous crusty varicella skin lesions, especially over the trunk, and swelling and reddening of his right leg. The brain was swollen, with cerebellar herniation, and both adrenal glands were hemorrhagic.Microscopically, neutrophilic infiltration and muscle fiber necrosis were observed in soft tissues of his right leg, and fibrin microthrombus were numerous in capillaries of the plexus choroideus, larynx, lungs, and adrenals. Bacterial emboli were present in most of the tissues. Microbiologic cultures of blood and cerebrospinal fluid showed group A β-hemolytic streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes). Death was attributed to fulminant streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, with necrotizing fasciitis as a complication of varicella.

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