Georgia health officials have confirmed a third death at a Gainesville nursing home was caused by the infection known as “flesh-eating bacteria.”

The Georgia Division of Public Health actually has documented four cases of necrotizing fasciitis at Bell-Minor Home. The fourth resident was hospitalized Monday.

The outbreak began in mid-March and may not be fully contained yet, health officials said early this week. Throat swab cultures performed last week turned up 15 positive swabs – three were employees – at Bell-Minor. Those who tested positive were given antibiotics.

The disease is a cousin to strep throat and may reside in more people than it ultimately afflicts. Only about 600 cases of necrotizing fasciitis are reported annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To have four cases occur at a single location is extraordinary, said Melody Stancil, director of District 2 Public Health in Gainesville: “I have been in public health for over 25 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”

According to published report, regulators said that the facility has a good history of compliance and quality care. The source of the outbreak may never be known, according to one state official.