THE family of a woman who died after contracting a ‘flesh-eating’ infection have appealed for more to be done to raise awareness of sepsis.

Susan Whittaker died as a result of the condition which was caused by necrotising fasciitis while in the intensive care unit at Royal Bolton Hospital on March 2.

An inquest at Bolton Coroners Court heard how the 54-year-old grandmother’s health deteriorated over four days.

She was seen by a nurse, GP and eventually doctors in Bolton A&E and intensive care, but died as a result of the sepsis while being prepared for an operation.

Her husband Christopher Whittaker has appealed for more to be done to raise awareness over the dangers of sepsis.

The deadly condition, which arises when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs, is estimated to cause 44,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Mr Whittaker said: “I just loved my wife. I miss her every day, every minute of every day.

“People have got to become aware of what sepsis is, more needs to be done to publicise it as far as I am concerned.

“People are dying every day. It is a silent killer.

“Let's get people aware of this thing — not just because of my wife, but for the 44,000 people who die every year.”

A family spokesman also paid tribute to Mrs Whittaker.

He said: “She was a much loved wife, mother and grandmother. She was a selfless woman who lived to care for others. Her death has left a hole in all our lives and we miss her deeply.”

Mrs Whittaker, a senior carer from Westhoughton, first became ill with a sore throat on February 27 and suffered from shivers and feeling cold the following day before her right leg became swollen.

Together with her husband, she visited The Unsworth Group Practice with a painful swollen leg on the morning of March 1 and was seen by an advanced nurse practitioner and a GP.

They thought it could be a result of the skin infection cellulitis and prescribed antibiotics.

However, concerned at the rate of the swelling, warned the couple to contact a doctor or visit A&E if problems continued.

That night at her home in King Street, Mrs Whittaker’s health deteriorated and, after contacting the out-of-hours doctors, an ambulance was called.

Treated in A&E and intensive care, doctors diagnosed and treated the sepsis and tried to establish if she was suffering from cellulitis or necrotising fasciitis — a rare bacterial infection which releases toxins that damage the tissue.

Surgeon Jaward Sultan told the court it was very difficult to distinguish between the infections and the antibiotic treatment was helping to improve her condition.

However, due to the severity of her health, he held back on taking her into surgery.

Anaesthetist Nicholas Smith said the team did all they could to help Mrs Whittaker, but her condition was “very, very unstable”.

A post mortem examination found the cause of death to be sepsis due to necrotising fasciitis.

It is not known how Mrs Whittaker contracted the infection, which doctors described as “uncommon, but not rare”.

Coroner John Pollard concluded that Mrs Whittaker died from natural causes and health professionals could not be blamed for failing to recognise necrotising fasciitis due to the difficulty of identifying the “unusual condition” and did all they could for her.

He added: “During the journey from going to the GPs through to Mrs Whittaker’s sad death, was anything there that would have changed the outcome? There wasn’t.”