Find out the answer to this, and other questions with our flesh eating bacteria FAQ
Do Flesh Eating Bacteria Eat Flesh?
No. The name is a misnomer. Flesh eating bacteria may appear to devour skin, but they do not actually eat flesh; they release toxins which damage the skin and the soft tissues underneath (they become gangrenous - dead). The infection spreads quickly through the body and can cause organ failure.
Can Flesh Eating Bacteria Attack the Skin on the Face?
Yes. The route of flesh eating bacteria into you can be via small cuts or abrasions on the surface of the skin on any part of the body. There have been numerous reports in the media of people whose faces have been attacked by the bacteria. In 2008, a 42 year old woman from Norfolk in England had surgery to remove infected tissue from her face, including her upper cheek.
How Common is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
Necrotizing fasciitis is the name given to the infection caused by flesh eating bacteria, and it is rare. Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but taking the USA as an example, it is estimated that there are between 500 and 1,500 cases a year, making the incidence less than 1%.
Are Flesh Eating Bacteria New?
No. Flesh eating bacteria history goes back to at least the time of Hippocrates, the Greek physician born around 460 BC. He described the condition more than 3,000 years ago and there are hundreds of reports from the American Civil War.
Is There Treatment for Flesh Eating Bacteria?
Flesh eating bacteria infection is treated with massive doses of antibiotics and surgical debridement, where the infected tissue is removed to stop the bacteria from spreading.
How Can the Infection Be Prevented?
Although necrotizing fasciitis is a rare disease, absolute prevention is not possible, but there are many ways of minimizing the chances of contracting the illness.
- Physicians suggest that anyone with skin cuts or minor abrasions should avoid people who are infected with streptococci bacteria. The strep A group contain the most common causative agents, and these are bacteria that can cause illnesses such as strep throat. So if you have skin injuries avoid coming into contact with people who have sore throats.
- Cuts should be washed immediately and treated with antibiotic sprays or ointments.
- Basic hygiene - using anti-bacterial soaps. Cleanliness is one of the most important preventative measures.
- Up to 30% of the population are carriers of Strep A without showing any symptoms. So avoid spreading the germs by covering your mouth when coughing, and throwing away used tissues.