What is Flesh Eating Disease?
Flesh eating disease, also known as necrotizing fasciitis (decaying skin), is a rapid progressing type of bacterial infection that destroys the skin, fat and tissue that cover the muscle within 12 to 24 hours. Actually, the flesh is not eaten, but the skin dies as a result of the infection. It is a serious and very rare disease and 1 out of 4 people who contract the condition may die from it as a result.
It is caused by a bacterium; group A beta hemolytic streptococci, which targets the layers of tissue (fascia) in the muscles, cutting off the blood supply so the tissues die and go through the process of decay, known as necrosis.
Picture 1 – Flesh eating disease at groin
How do you get Flesh Eating Disease?
There are many different ways of acquiring the bacteria which causes this condition. The most common is when the bacteria enters your body through an open wound from a burn, cut, surgery, or insect bite. You can also get it:
- In tumors or gunshot wounds
- If you have a muscle strain or bruise
- If wounds come in contact with saltwater or sea animals such as oysters and crabs.
- If you have a weak immune system
- If you are suffering from chronic heart disease, lung disease, or liver disease.
- If you have contact with someone who already has the disease condition.
- If you have chickenpox, although not all cases always result in the condition
It is important to keep in mind that this flesh eating disease occurs very rarely. So even if you have any of the factors mentioned above, the chance of acquiring the condition is low.
What causes Flesh Eating Disease?
Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by many bacteria. Some of these bacteria are proven to cause infections like impetigo or strep throat. This kind of bacteria causes mild form of infections. In rare cases, they can result in a much more dangerous infection.
Is Flesh Eating Disease Contagious?
It is possible that this disease can be passed from one person to another by direct contact, or exposure to an infected wound, or objects that have been exposed.
Flesh Eating Disease, Symptoms & Signs
Early recognition of symptoms associated with this disease includes the following:
- Altered Mental State. The toxic effects of these bacteria can result in disorientation, confusion or mental dullness. When the bacteria spread to the bloodstream, shock can develop and in the long run can lead to coma.
- Pain. An early sign of this condition is severe pain. This is due to the fact that the nerves in the affected area are dying; hence there is poor blood circulation, leading to pain.
- Heart Palpitations. Infection and high fever cause an increase in heart rate, leading to palpitations.
- Local Skin Warmth. The affected area initially appears red in color and is hot to touch when the inflammatory process is triggered. The skin color changes from red to purple, and then to dusky gray.
- Swelling. The infected area becomes swollen plus the skin is shiny and taut. It usually takes place within 30 minutes.
- Blisters. A popping and crackling sound is produced when the skin is pressed, the formation of blisters may also be present.
- Foul Odor. When the skin and soft tissues go through the dying stage, they eventually produce a foul odor that emanates from the infected area.
- Ulceration. There is an opening of the skin, which develops when the infected tissue of the skin dies.
- Malaise. Extreme fatigue along with headache, nausea and generalized weakness are other symptoms.
- High Fever. Chills and sweating are common along with high fever which runs through 38.9 to 40.6 degrees Celsius or 102 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dizziness. The disease can cause low blood pressure which results in feelings of faintness or dizziness.
Flesh Eating Disease Treatment
Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment must be started as soon as possible. If this is not done, the condition can be fatal.
The primary step is debridement of the infected area, which is done surgically.
Medication – Antibiotics
In addition, antibiotics should be administered intravenously, as soon as suspicion arises.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
This helps in the prevention of tissue necrosis or death, and aids recuperation.
Early treatment is essential. The sooner the infected area is treated, the more likely it is that serious complications can be avoided and the patient recuperates fully from the bacterial infection.
Flesh Eating Disease Prevention
There are two important things you have to remember to prevent acquiring this disease condition:
Seek medical attention. If you suspect someone or manifest the symptoms yourself, you can take antibiotics as a precautionary action.
Take good care of any minor cuts or wounds. Wash the infected area with warm soapy water, always keep it dry and clean, and cover it with a bandage.
Flesh Eating Disease Pictures
Here are few pictures of flesh eating disease
Picture 2 – Flesh eating disease on face
Picture 6 – Flesh eating disease on right side of chest, abdomen & thigh
Proofreaded and updated by jean on 27/8/2012