Necrolizing Fasciitis Necrolizing Fasciitis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Necrotizing Fasciitis: A Rare Disease, Especially for the Healthy
Recent media stories about "flesh-eating" bacteria may have you worried. But CDC’s cutting-edge tracking methods, like Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs), show no rise in annual cases.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and destroys the body’s soft tissue. Commonly called a "flesh-eating infection" by the media, this very rare disease can be caused by more than one type of bacteria. These include group A Streptococcus (group A strep), Klebsiella, Clostridium, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Aeromonas hydrophila, among others. Group A strep is considered the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis.
Usually, infections from group A strep bacteria are generally mild or moderate and are easily treated. But sometimes toxins made by these bacteria destroy the tissue they infect, causing it to die. ("Necrotizing" means "causing the death of tissues.") Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment with antibiotics through a vein and surgery are important.
Common sense and good wound care are the best ways to prevent a bacterial skin infection. Keep draining or open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed. Don’t delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin. If you have an open wound or active infection, avoid common-use sites like whirlpools, hot tubs and swimming pools until infections are healed. Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if washing is not possible. Necrotizing Fasciitis Causes
Most cases occur randomly and are not linked to similar infections in others. The most common way of getting necrotizing fasciitis is when the bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, like a cut, scrape, burn, insect bite, or puncture wound. Most people who get necrotizing fasciitis have other health problems that may lower their body’s ability to fight infection. Some of these conditions include diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, or other chronic health conditions that weaken the body’s immune system.
If you’re healthy, have a strong immune system, and practice good hygiene and proper wound care, your chances of getting necrotizing fasciitis are extremely low.
In cases of necrotizing fasciitis, bacteria spread rapidly once they enter the body. They infect flat layers of a membrane known as the fascia, connective bands of tissue that surround muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. The infection also damages the tissues next to the fascia.
Necrotizing Fasciitis Symptoms Can Often Be Confusing
The symptoms often start within hours after an injury and may seem like another illness or injury. Some people infected with necrotizing fasciitis may complain of pain or soreness, similar to that of a "pulled muscle." The skin may be warm with red or purplish areas of swelling that spread rapidly. There may be ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin. Patients often describe their pain as severe and way out of proportion to how the painful area looks when examined by a doctor. Fever, chills, fatigue (tiredness) or vomiting may follow the initial wound or soreness. These confusing symptoms may delay a person from seeking medical attention quickly. If you think you may have these symptoms after a wound, see a doctor right away.
Prompt Treatment Needed for Necrotizing Fasciitis
The first line of defense against this disease is strong antibiotics given through a needle into a vein. But because the bacterial toxins can destroy soft tissue and reduce blood flow, antibiotics may not reach all of the infected and decaying areas. This is why the rapid surgical removal of dead tissue – in addition to antibiotics – may be critical to stopping the infection.