Every summer when the air temperature rises and people go to beaches, pools and lakes, the media starts reporting about a terrible disease that leads to death. Necrotic fasciitis is a life-threatening disease caused by carnivorous bacteria that usually live in the water. It affects the deep fascia and subcutaneous tissues. Cases of this disease are extremely rare, only 20,000 cases per year in the United States.
What Is It?
According to the National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD), necrotic fasciitis is commonly known as a carnivorous bacterium that destroys the soft tissues of the body. Bacteria infect the skin and tissues beneath it (the fascia that surrounds the muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels). It often spreads quickly, sometimes the speed reaches an inch per hour and leads to toxic shock syndrome.
How Do Bacteria Enter the Body?
According to NORD, the bacteria enter the body through an open wound or some kind of external trauma and sometimes through a puncture in the skin or genitals. After infection, the bacteria spread through the soft tissues. The bacterium most often affects people with a compromised immune system and those suffering from cancer, kidney disease, and liver problems.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
A person who has become infected with a bacterium may experience nausea, diarrhea, chills, and fever. As the disease progresses, the skin becomes bright red, swollen, shiny, and red dots on the skin appear. In the worst-case scenario, open wounds may develop. Symptoms usually begin a few hours after the injury and may include severe pain or pain similar to a “stretched muscle”. According to the CDC, puffiness with red or purple spots may appear on the skin.
How Is It Treated?
According to the CDC, the first step in treating diseases provoked by carnivorous bacteria is the intravenous introduction of antibiotics. But even antibiotics do not provide complete recovery and often surgery is required to remove dead tissues. Treatment depends on how much necrotic fasciitis has progressed but the key to stop the disease and save someone’s life is to seek immediate medical care.
What Precautions Can Be Taken to Prevent Infection?
CDC says that the chances of getting necrotizing fasciitis are very small, especially if you are healthy and have a strong immune system. It is important to follow the rules of hygiene to prevent the disease, as well as provide proper care to all wounds and apply clean dressings. In addition, people who have open wounds must avoid ponds, pools, and jacuzzi. CDC notes that necrotic fasciitis is rarely transmitted from person to person.
How Serious Is the Risk?
The chance of infection is very low. Necrotic fasciitis is very rare, with only 20,000 cases in the United States per year. But studies show that climate change affects carnivorous bacteria and because of warmer waters, they spread along the east coast.
According to studies, bacterias were previously found mainly along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico where the water temperature remains above 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. But at least five cases of infection were noticed between 2017 and 2018 to the north of Delaware and New Jersey.