Doctors describe early warning signs of flesh-eating bacteria

Posted at 6:20 AM, Jul 02, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Contracting necrotizing fasciitis is rare but if you do get it, the bacteria kills one in three people.

Last month, 77-year-old Lynn Fleming died of flesh-eating bacteria after cutting her left leg in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.


"Any minor cuts and scratches the most important thing is to wash it immediately with soap and water and keep a close eye on it if there's any symptom," Dr. Alfred Aleguas the Director of the Florida Poison Control Center at Tampa General Hospital said.

Aleguas said if you do get cut in the Gulf, the bay, brackish water and even fresh water, you should closely monitor the wound. If you start to see symptoms that aren't generally associated with a simple scratch or cut go to the emergency room.

"Really red and inflamed, hot to the touch, can happen over a very short amount of time. Any discoloration, any puss anything like that you have to seek medical attention immediately," Dr. Aleguas said. "It multiplies and divides very rapidly."

Immunocompromised people are more likely to contract the bacteria, but it can strike anyone.

CDC tracks necrotizing fasciitis caused by group A strep with a special system called Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs). Since 2010, approximately 700 to 1200 cases occur each year in the United States.

According to the CDC, necrotizing fasciitis can affect any part of the body, but most commonly affects extremities, particularly the legs. Necrotizing fasciitis begins with pain in the affected area, accompanied by the following signs :

  • Swelling
  • Erythema
  • Tenderness
  • Heat

Click here for more information on necrotizing fasciitis.