Flesh-eating bacteria: What symptoms to look for

11:47 PM, May 17, 2012   |    comments
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Doctors are racing to save another woman with flesh-eating bacteria. This time it's a new mom of twins from South Carolina.

Both cases in the headlines this week have people so worried they're heading to local doctors offices to see if they've contracted flesh-eating bacteria.

Only 500 to 1,000 people get in the U.S. each year.

But Dr. Frank Esper, with University Hospitals, says necrotizing fasciitis has a much more commonly known name.

"It's actually group A strep, which is the same type of strep that we get with our sore throat. Staph can do this as well," says Esper.

But if that same bacteria gets under our skin, it can cause a bad infection.

Staph, strep and other bacteria strains that can cause necrotizing fasciitis is in our dirt, water, on our clothes, it's basically all over our bodies.

So, why aren't we contracting this deadly infection all the time? Esper says several circumstances have to align.

"Most of the people who get necrotizing fasciitis have a reason for having a very serious infection," says Esper.

A compromised immune system, exposure to a large amount of bacteria that gets under the skin, and neglect to clean the wound can all be factors that lead to serious cases.

Dr. Esper says this week they've had a lot of patients coming into the ER with concern they've contracted the flesh-eating virus.

But the symptoms to look for include: if your infection is spreading quickly, if it's more blue or purple in color, and if the pain is disproportionate to the size of the wound.


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