Necrotizing Fasciitis is a deadly disease that can potentially lead up to either the loss of limb or life if immediate action is not taken. So what is Necrotizing Fasciitis? Necrotizing Fasciitis is more commonly referred to as the “Flesh Eating Disease” or “Flesh Eating Bacteria”. The disease does what its namesake says it is an infection that essentially destroys ones flesh with a morality rate of around 40% (Emer pg37). It is normally believed that most causes come from group A streptococcus sometimes called by the acronym GAS. Although it is also possible to get it from other groups of bacteria. There are currently 3 types of this disease one can get, which are broken down in how the initial affliction is caught. Type 1 is tied to the affliction coming from aerobic and anaerobic gram-negative bacteria, in simple terms the other bacteria not found in GAS that typical afflict the muscles (Emer. Pg52). Type 2 is associated with GAS and the most common type of the 3, it is mostly found on the arms or legs and eats away at the skin (Emer. Pg52). Type 3 is linked to microbes called marine vibrios and are transmitted by wounds inflicted by either fish or insects (Emer. Pg52). The actual name Necrotizing Fasciitis can be broken down into necrotizing meaning “causing the death of tissue” and fasciitis meaning “inflammation of the fascia” (CDC).
Who is at risk? Those at a higher risk of contracting this disease are people whose immune systems are being suppressed or weaken by another disease. Diseases that can constitute this are diabetes, AIDS, and cancer being the more common ones amongst others (CDC). Others who are at a higher risk are people who are undergoing chemotherapy as this treatment already wreaks havoc on the body and further damages one’s ability to fight the infection. Aside from those whose bodies are at a disadvantage with the initial contact of the disease a healthy individual is still capable of contact it. This normally occurs through the sharing of personal items like razors and even towels, as approximately 15%-30% of the population carry GAS in their throats or on their skin while not harmful to them in this state it is possible to spread it through secretion (APN V.101 Pg37). Another way a healthy individual may get afflicted is contamination of a wound as the bacteria will seize the opportunity to infiltrate the body through the break in the skin, so even something as small as a paper cut or an insect bite can turn into a life threatening situation if the proper care is not taken beforehand.
The symptoms of this disease are mild in its initial stages as it can be mistaken for symptoms of something less ravenous, the first stage being the first 24 hours, the following stage 2-4 days, and the critical stage being anything after 5 days. In its initials stage the disease can inflict fatigue, nausea, sweating, chills, fever, and pain in the affected area but these are only a handful of symptoms among the myriad of possibilities (Sepsis). As the disease progresses to its much more lethal stages the afflicted area with undergo changes such as the very texture of one’s skin changing to a much more tissue paper like state, a change in coloration, and the development of blisters (Emer. Pg38). Once the critical stage has been achieved the areas that are suffering a discoloration are becoming gangrenous with the necrosis of flesh being clear, if it goes undertreated the body will suffer septic or neurological deterioration with death being the ultimate symptom (Emer. Pg38). It is imperative that if the afflicted area is causing disproportional pain to the size of the wound to immediately seek medical attention, as this is one of the earlier indictors one can follow to help combat this disease. It is essential to react fast to decrease the likelihood of death and to reduce the chance of having to lose a limb.
The only effective treatment to cure this disease is through surgical means, with amputation the worst case scenario. It is required to cut away infected flesh to stop the infection from spreading further, as antibiotics normally the solution to most bacteria related illness are not effective in this case. The antibiotics are not capable of working to their full potential due to the reduced blood flow in the immediate infected area, although it may not cure the disease it is used in conjunction with fluid resuscitation and the use of vasopressors to treat shock or multisystem organ failure. Once the initial surgery is undergone it is common to do a “second look” surgery. For patients there can be anywhere from 5 to 40 different operations, this number does include skin grafting use to treat areas where the skin is had been completely eroded away (Emer. Pg38).
Ultimately Necrotizing Fasciitis is a deadly disease that although rare can have life changing consequences if the proper course of action is not taken within a specific time frame. Good hygiene is a must in the world of germs as not just this disease but many others thrive on poor hygiene to spread. And in the unfortunate case that you are afflicted it is imperative that you seek a medical attention as every second counts.
Dworkin, M. S., et al. “Short Report: The Epidemiology of Necrotizing Fasciitis Including Factors Associated with Death and Amputation.” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 137, no. 11, 2009, pp. 1609–1614. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40272198.
Kessenich, Cathy R., and Ashima Bahl. “Emergency: Necrotizing Fasciitis.” The American Journal of Nursing, vol. 104, no. 9, 2004, pp. 51–55. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29746126.
DeBoer, Scott L., et al. “Emergency: Necrotizing Fasciitis.” The American Journal of Nursing, vol. 101, no. 4, 2001, pp. 37–38. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3522658.
“Necrotizing Fasciitis: All You Need to Know” National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Bacterial Diseases, 2018, Group A Streptococcus (GAS), https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/necrotizing-fasciitis.html.
“Sepsis and Necrotizing Fasciitis” 2017, https://www.sepsis.org/sepsis-and/necrotizing-fasciitis/.