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What’s In The Water

I’m sure everyone has been seeing posts on Facebook regarding a flesh eating bacteria, called Vibrio, in certain bodies of water. The post stated there was a person who contacted the bacteria while swimming in Virginia Beach. Another case of the flesh eating bacteria is that a young boy was infected during a family trip to a Maryland beach, based on an article in the New York Post on July 3rd, 2019. He developed the rash after swimming off the coast of Ocean City.

So what is this flesh eating bacteria? Necrotizing fasciitis (NF), also known as, flesh eating disease is an infection that results in the death of parts of the body’s soft tissue. It is type 1 of the three types. The species of the bacteria thrives in warm, salty, or brackish water.

The infection enters the body through a cut or burn that spreads rapidly throughout the body. The flesh eating disease can also be contracted by eating raw shellfish from the contaminated water. It is the same bacteria that causes strep throat and associated with sepsis; however, there are other types of bacteria associated with the disease.

The flesh eating disease is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Once the disease infects the tissue then its enzymes and toxins allow a rapid entrance of bacteria to the bloodstream, causing sepsis and infection of other body organs. The infection spreads quickly through the body’s tissue surrounding the muscles, 3 centimeters of tissue an hour.

Early Stage Symptoms:

  • Redness and swelling at infected site

  • Sensitive to pain

  • Fever, chills

  • Fatigue

  • Dehydration

Later Stage Symptoms:

  • Blisters

  • Swelling accompanied by a purple rash

  • Gangrene (discoloration, peeling, flakiness as tissue dying)

  • Drop in blood pressure

  • Toxic shock

  • Unconsciousness

Individuals with a low immune system are at a higher risk to develop the disease. Prognosis really depends of how fast the infection is diagnosed and treated. Outcomes range from complications including tissue loss, amputation of limbs, and there are some cases that death can occur within 12-24 hours if not treated immediately.

Everyone loves to enjoy the water and millions of people visit a beach during the summer time. Be careful and make sure you know if the particular beach that you are going to visit hasn't had a recent case of flesh eating disease.

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