Flesh-eating Disease Facts: Signs And Symptoms, Causes And Contraction, Prevention And Treatment

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By Ryan Inoyori | February 27, 2014 5:32 PM EST

Flesh-eating disease is currently getting so much attention worldwide as it is rare and virtually life-threatening condition.

Here are the facts on the causes, prevention, contraction and possible treatments given by medical experts:

Flesh-eating Disease

In October 2013, cases of flesh-eating disease or Necrotizing fasciitis haunts people living near Florida waters after the death of Henry Konietzky in September 30 caused by an infection from a rare bacterium. The 27th case known last year was George Clarke who is an elderly that battled the disease under five different antibiotics to kill off the same bacteria that killed Konietzky. Around 27 cases were filed in 2013 with nine deaths due to Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, a cholera pathogen.

Causes of Flesh-eating Disease

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by bacterial infection from one or more strain types. There are several bacteria which can cause such rare disease but primarily known among Streptococcus pyrogenes, Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium perfringens. Vibrio vulnificus residing in saltwater was responsible for the cases of flesh-eating disease in Florida waters during 2013.

Contractions

The bacteria needs to enter a wound to begin infection. Healthy people don't usually get sick (but they do) enough to contract flesh-eating disease and if the wound has been cleaned. But for the cases of individuals with compromised immune system due to diabetes, cancer, HIV or old age may contract the disease easily, especially if the wound is ignored.

Vibrio vulnificus causes cholera if ingested by eating infested raw oysters or other raw shellfishes that lead to vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. But if the bacteria enters an open wound, it causes breakdown and ulcers then ultimately the flesh-eating disease.

Symptoms

As the bacteria invade and toxins are released, all healthy tissues, including skin, fat and muscles are getting damaged that leads to necrosis. An infected wound going to Necrotizing fasciitis delivers noticeable signs such as redness, swelling and pain followed by hot skin, violet skin color, blisters and flu-like symptoms. Late stages show symptoms such as gangrene, scaling, discoloration and skin peeling. If left untreated, it leads to toxic shock and eventually death as fast as 24 hours.

Treatment

Early treatment against the flesh-eating disease is critical and usually resolved by high dose antibiotics to kill the bacteria. But if the patient already reached advance stage or if the antibiotics didn't work, surgical intervention was needed and usually ended up with amputation. Hospitalization under intensive care unit is usually applied for medications to treat shock and other possible complications during recovery.

Risky Individuals

Medical experts generally consider all immune-compromised individuals as more vulnerable to contract the disease:

1.      Weakened immune system due to infection such as HIV

2.      Immune compromised due to birth defect or natural factors

3.      Diabetics

4.      Alcohol and drug abusers

5.      Elderly

6.      Patients who underwent surgery recently

7.      Organ transplant recipients due to immuno-suppressors

8.      People with chronic diseases

Prevention

The only possible known prevention is to avoid the bacteria which cause it and breeds in dirty waters or natural bodies of water such as swamps and saltwater areas.

  • Washing hands thoroughly and often
  • Cleaning wounds is highly recommended
  • Avoiding people with sore throat symptoms to avoid strep
  • Applying antibiotic ointment on abrasions
  • Never popping skin blisters

Consult a medical practitioner for information and immediate treatment in case your wounds show unusual symptoms.

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