If we asked you to think of the ten most ‘unusual’ ways to die, flesh-eating bacteria probably would not make your list. It certainly did not make ours! But it appears this horrific-sounding condition, which is medically known as necrotizing fasciitis, occurs more often than we might think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9,000 to 11,500 people per year are diagnosed with invasive Group A Streptococcal infections. Of those infected, up to 800 die each year from necrotizing fasciitis. According to WebMD, one out of every four people that get this infection will die from it.
Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by Group A Streptococcal bacteria, mostly Streptococcus pyrogens and sometimes by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bacteria usually enter the body through a cut or wound. Once inside, they multiply and start to release a toxin that kills muscle, fat and skin tissue. The wound starts out as a small reddish bump, but it quickly progresses to a purple or bronze colored patch with a black center. Soon the skin may break open and start to ooze. If treatment is not obtained quickly, death may result within only a few days.
Necrotizing fasciitis is treated with antibiotics, and the affected areas of the body may require skin grafting, removal of affected tissue, and sometimes amputation. The most important aspect of treating this infection is early detection and treatment. When the infection is advanced, the victim can suffer a severe drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness, shock, and possible death.
According to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation (NNFF), the following are symptoms to watch for if you believe you might be infected.
- A cut or wound in which the bacteria may have entered
- Pain in the area of the cut or wound that becomes worse as time goes by
- Swelling in the area of the body where the wound is
- Flu-like symptoms; diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, fever, confusion and weakness
- Purple rash and possible black areas with blackish liquid filling
- Intense thirst
If that list doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, nothing will. The best way to reduce the possibility of infection is by proper personal hygiene. Clean a cut or scrape well and use an antibiotic ointment with a band aide. Wash your hands frequently and use antibacterial soap.
If you are intrigued and want to learn more, you will find some amazing survivor stories and dedications on the foundation’s website.