One man nearly lost his foot from the bacteria while another man was lucky to keep his hand. An Indianapolis woman was not so lucky, having succumbed to the infection two months after visiting St. Petersburg, Florida. In all cases the victims were exposed to waterways on Florida's gulf coast.
On April 13 while fishing with friends in the Gulf, Mike Walton accidentally impaled his hand with a fish hook. The next day he experienced alarming symptoms that prompted a visit to a local urgent care facility, who prescribed antibiotics that didn't improve the initial hand would. The wound rapidly began to spread causing blistering, bruising, swelling, and black-colored skin, so Mike got to Tampa General Hospital where doctors diagnosed him with the extremely rare, life-threatening, flesh-eating bacteria that spread from his hand into his arm. Walton immediately underwent surgery and doctors were able to save his arm and hand.
In a recent trip to Tampa, Barry Briggs of Waynesville, Ohio became ill after a boating trip near Weedon Island. His foot began to swell but he didn't think it was serious so he flew back home to Ohio. When he sought medial attention he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis and immediately underwent surgery to stop the infection's progress, which had already covered his foot and what advancing on his leg.
In 2018, 50-year-old Carol Martin returned home from vacationing in St. Petersburg, Florida with an infection on her buttocks the size of a nickle. In her case, the infection wasn't accurately diagnosed and treated, until it had spread significantly. Despite two major surgeries and weeks in the ICU, Carol didn't make it.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death. Accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment, and prompt surgery are important to stopping this infection. See a doctor as soon as possible if you have fever, dizziness, or nausea soon after an injury or surgery. The CDC explains that although it's often called “flesh-eating bacteria,” more than one type of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis. Public health experts believe Streptococcus (group A strep) are the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis.
The bacteria most commonly enter the body through a break in the skin (examples below), but people can also get necrotizing fasciitis after an injury that does not break the skin (blunt trauma).
- Cuts and scrapes
- Insect bites
- Puncture wounds (including those due to intravenous or IV drug use)
- Surgical wounds
It's important to note that the bacteria is not limited to Florida, cases of necrotizing fasciitis. Earlier this year a California man contracted the bacteria while fishing with his son in the Pacific Ocean. The bacteria naturally exists in warm bodies of water.