East Coast Flesh-eating bacteria on the rise. According to authorities, deadly flesh-eating bacteria may be on the rise at some popular East Coast beaches due to warming water temperatures. In the past two years, five cases of Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacterial infection that is spread by handling or eating contaminated seafood, have been linked to Delaware Bay, according to a study.
Vibrio vulnificus is better known as the flesh-eating bacterium. This is a bacterial infection that spreads very quickly. The bacterium reaches the subcutaneous tissues and spreads along the tissues that cover the muscles, the fascia.
Vibrio vulnificus is typically found in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast, as it lives in temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a study by New Jersey researchers published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
But it’s slowly headed north, and between 2017-2018, infected five people who either ate seafood from the Delaware Bay or went crabbing near the bay between Delaware and New Jersey.
All of the patients who contracted vibrio vulnificus also had existing conditions, according to the study, and the Centers for Disease Control says those with compromised immune systems, like those with chronic liver disease, are most at risk.
Causes of the flesh-eating bacteria
Most often, Vibrio vulnificus is caused by type A streptococcus. This bacterium is very common and does not cause serious problems in most subjects. In very rare cases, and without understanding why, the bacterium reaches and destroys the tissues.
Although it is called a “flesh eater,” the bacterium does not feed on flesh, but produces a toxin that destroys tissue.
Who is affected by the flesh-eating bacteria?
People who may be affected by the flesh-eating bacteria can not be determined in advance. Some factors seem to be more common, but they may be absent as well … Some of these factors are:
- Weakened immune system (due to illness, drug treatment)
- A chronic illness, such as diabetes, for example
- Recent contacts with a person with an infection with the flesh-eating bacteria
- Presence of cuts and badly wounded injuries (even if they seem benign)
- Recent surgery
- It is estimated that between 15% and 30% of individuals have streptococci, but this usually causes no symptoms, and even more rarely diseases.
Thus, the flesh-eating bacteria can be transmitted as any microbe (coughing, sneezing, etc.), but it does not cause any infection in the vast majority of cases.
The main symptoms of the flesh-eating bacteria
The bacterium requires a gateway, such as an injury, but most often, the symptoms felt at this location are not comparable to the general state of weakness. The first signs of infection are:
- High fever
- Redness in the area of the injury, which quickly turns into intense pain.
- The skin in the affected area becomes purplish, mottled and swells rapidly
- Then the skin shows signs of necrosis (black patches.)
- All symptom can occur suddenly in about 12 to 48 hours.
In case of severe pain and symptoms that suddenly appear as a result of a wound, even minor, it is essential to consult a doctor, and ask for a diagnosis.
When the patient survives, it is often after several aggressive surgeries to remove all potentially contaminated tissue. It is not uncommon to have to amputate one or more limbs.
Even when the person does not require amputation, it is often necessary to have skin grafts to replace the removed tissue.
Treatment of the flesh-eating bacteria
Necrotizing fasciitis should be treated as quickly as possible to increase the chances of healing and reduce the risk of sequelae. Emergency hospitalization is required to administer intravenous antibiotics to the patient, and to perform surgeries (amputation), if necessary.
Depending on how quickly the diagnosis is made, the affected person may be left with minor or major scars, amputation, or may not survive.
Prevention of flesh-eating bacteria
Since a large part of the population is already carrying the necrotizing fasciitis bacteria without any problem (and most of the time without knowing it), it is impossible to prevent contamination.
The only known prevention measures are:
- Clean and disinfect wounds, even minor ones.
- When redness around wounds is particularly painful and spreads rapidly to surrounding tissue, contact a physician immediately.
- Take antibiotics as a preventive measure if you have been in contact with a person with