Thursday, March 09, 2006

Flesh Eating Bacteria

Last night I mentioned that I wanted to look this up and blog on it today. Lo and behold, here is a news article on it. Sharon Bishop died just three days after contracting an infection of the rare invasive form of group A streptococcal bacteria. Her initial wound was only a jammed thumb.

The diagnosis is Necrotizing Fasciitis and is usually caused by the invasive form of group A Strep but can be a combination of bacteria. Deadly in about 20% of the cases and tissue must always be removed, anything from skin to limbs and sometimes more.

What are the symptoms? The symptoms are varied, but often include:

EARLY SYMPTOMS (usually within 24 hours) :
1. Usually a minor trauma or other skin opening has occurred (the wound does not necessarily appear infected)
2. Some pain in the general area of the injury is present. Not necessarily at the site of the injury but in the same region or limb of the body
3. The pain is usually disproportionate to the injury and may start as something akin to a muscle pull, but becomes more and more painful
4. Flu like symptoms begin to occur, such as diarrhea, nausea, fever, confusion, dizziness, weakness, and general malaise
5. Intense thirst occurs as the body becomes dehydrated
6. The biggest symptom is all of these symptoms combined. In general you will probably feel worse than you've ever felt and not understand why.
When should I seek medical attention?
Any time all of the early symptoms are present, go to a doctor at once, and insist that this be ruled out. The vast majority of cases are misdiagnosed. People have been told that they had fallen, when they didn't, they have had casts put on bones that were not broken, have been given Tylenol for flu and been told to come back the next day; they have been told they have an ingrown toenail, they've been told they have arthritis; they've been accused of burning themselves...many of these people have gone back to the hospital two days later and died. Insist that this be ruled out if you have all of the early symptoms.
Why are so many cases of NF misdiagnosed?
Because the beginning symptoms look like so many other minor afflictions. None of the symptoms are exclusive to this, and until the patient is so ill that they are critical many health care workers don't consider NF. Although the disease is on the increase worldwide, it is still considered uncommon, so many emergency rooms may never have seen a case before.

More information can be found at the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation. The info above is from there Facts Page