Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: flesh | eating | bacteria | necrotizing | fasciitis | infection

Flesh-Eating Bacteria: How Can I Protect Myself?

Friday, 14 September 2012 09:20 AM

Question: How can I protect myself against “flesh-eating” bacteria? It looks like an awful condition to get.

Dr. Hibberd's answer:

Wash your hands with soap and water before eating. Also, wear disposable gloves when you come in contact with another person's skin infection, such as when you are changing dressing.
“Flesh–eating “ bacteria refers to a type of very rare but serious bacterial infection known in medical terms as necrotizing fasciitis. Necrotizing fasciitis infection starts in the tissues just below the skin and spreads along the flat layers of tissue (known as fascia) that separate different layers of soft tissue, such as muscle and fat. \
This dangerous infection is most common in the arms, legs, and abdominal wall and is fatal in 30-40 percent of cases. It requires aggressive hospital management with intravenous antibiotics and surgical debridements to control it rapidly.
Many of the people who have developed necrotizing fasciitis have been in good health before developing the condition.
Those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer, weakened circulation, or weakened immune systems, or those who have skin wounds or conditions are at increased risk of developing necrotizing fasciitis.
Always clean wounds (including surgical incisions) well with soap and water, but do not use peroxide topically on open wounds deeper than superficial abrasions, as peroxide will also kill healthy cells on the surface and predispose you to development of delayed healing or even cause a sterile abscess. Bacitracin is an excellent topical antibacterial for household use and is not associated with the allergic reactions seen with other products available over the counter at your pharmacy.
Infections can enter the body through a cut or other break in the skin. To help prevent any kind of infection, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water often. Alcohol disinfectant wipes are not as effective as handwashing for at least 20 seconds or more, but are better than nothing!
Always keep cuts, scrapes, burns, sores, and bites clean, and clean them 3-4 times daily unless otherwise directed.
If you have been in close contact with someone who has necrotizing fasciitis, your doctor may give you an antibiotic to help reduce your chances of getting the infection. If you notice any symptoms of infection (such as pain, swelling, redness, or fever) don’t delay treatment.
Although flesh-eating bacteria has made big headlines lately, you should realize that it is not very common.

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Flesh eating bacteria is not common, but you can protect yourself by watching your hands carefully and cleaning wounds.
Friday, 14 September 2012 09:20 AM
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