THE RECENT RINGING in physicians' ears has nothing to do with tinnitus. It's the sound of fearful patients calling for reassurance that a so-called flesh-eating strain of streptococcus will not strike them and their families like a thief in the night.
"Physicians are being inundated with phone calls," says Stanford Shulman, MD, professor of pediatrics and associate dean of Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill. Many of those calls, Shulman explains, are from parents whose children have chicken pox. Harboring fears fueled by exaggerated news accounts, they worry that a severe, invasive strain of group A strep will find a portal through the varicella vesicles.
Other parents want to know how to prevent a deadly strep infection if a child suffers a scraped knee during a fall from a bicycle. Some patients call to find out if it's safe to travel to England, where the bacterial buzz started in late