over Flesh-Eating Bacteria:
Better Defenses Needed
We’ve been warning you for some time that the medical establishment is running out of effective antibiotics as well as other critical meds. In fact, the American Hospital Association noted that better than 95% of medical institutions are experiencing critical drug shortages.
So it is a positive thing to see two news stories turning the spotlight on a dangerous and often-overlooked health danger: flesh-eating bacteria.
These stories have been heartbreaking, and enough to make you wonder if you need to worry about such a disease affecting you or your family.
The first news story that really grabbed my attention was about a young woman in Georgia. She went out on the river, and while riding a homemade zip line, she fell and gashed her leg.
At first, the doctors just stapled her wound closed, but within days it became clear something was very wrong. Deadly bacteria had entered her system through the gash, and were destroying her body’s vital tissues at an alarming rate.
Are Loose in America
A little farther north in South Carolina, a new mother contracted flesh-eating bacteria during her hospital stay to give birth to her twins. She had to undergo 20 separate surgeries, but doctors have been able to stay ahead of the aggressive bacteria well enough that they haven’t had to do any amputations. Still, the bacteria has ravaged her body and left her in need of extended physical therapy and rehabilitation.
It makes you wonder how common such infections are. How can something as simple as getting cut while swimming in the river or giving birth in a hospital leave you battling for your life against such a terrible disease?
And, what can you do to protect yourself?
Here’s How Aggressive Bacteria
Damage Systems throughout the Body
“A strong immune system is key, and you get that by taking good care of your body. “
The official name for this condition is necrotizing fasciitis (fas-see-eye-tis). And it’s not just a single bacterium that can cause this condition, but many. Even so, it is rare for someone to actually end up with the condition.
When someone is infected, it’s not usually from a large gash, like the young woman in Georgia. Usually a minor scrape or cut is the culprit. The bacteria enter through the wound and begin to grow. Eventually, the infection works its way into the bloodstream and spreads through the entire body.
Such aggressive bacteria can destroy muscles and skin cells. They can even attack organs. In one out of five cases, necrotizing fasciitis leads to death. Survival of such a deadly infection depends on a number of factors.
First, the earlier you realize there’s a problem and the faster you seek treatment, the better off you’ll be. This is true of almost any health condition, so use this example as a stark reminder of the benefit of seeking medical care sooner rather than later.
Second, your overall health can have a dramatic effect on your outcome if you find yourself battling necrotizing fasciitis. Again, the same is true of your ability to overcome many other diseases. A strong immune system is key, and you get that by taking good care of your body.
The other factors are more out of your control. The type of bacteria causing the infection is important. Some bacteria are worse than others and are more likely to result in death. How quickly the infection spreads is another issue. And, so is how well you respond to treatment.
Recognize the Early Signs
Even though it’s highly unlikely you’ll come down with necrotizing fasciitis, knowing how to recognize the early signs of this or any other disease can make all the difference in your outcome if you ever do.
Necrotizing fasciitis usually begins as a small, painful bump. The bump grows rapidly into a painful bruise. By rapidly, we mean in the course of just an hour or two. The center of the bruise will sometimes turn black in color as the skin begins to die. That’s a sure sign you need immediate and urgent care. In the two cases we’ve been discussing, both women sought treatment on the fourth day after being infected. It goes to show that days, even a few hours, can make a difference.
You may also run a fever, feel dizzy, and experience weakness.
If you see these symptoms, get to the emergency room as fast as you can. You know how we feel about emergency rooms – crowded, impersonal, insanely expensive, and often gathering places for “Typhoid Marys” – so you know we don’t say that lightly!
Simple Prevention and Quick Diagnosis
Is Your Best Bet
While knowing how to recognize the early signs of necrotizing fasciitis could save either your life or your limbs, knowing how to prevent it is even better.
And, prevention is simple.
A couple of simple precautions are to avoid going barefoot, especially outdoors, and to wear gloves when doing physical labor.
We especially like mechanics’ gloves, sold in home centers and auto parts stores for about ten dollars. They’re tough, comfortable, form-fitting, dry quickly and are almost impossible to wear out. Wear them not only for any automotive work but anytime you’re using tools, handing building materials, or even gardening.
Anytime you cut yourself or get a scrape, wash and disinfect the wound and the skin surrounding it. Soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are best. If neither is available, use hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, colloidal silver, or even distilled spirits (whisky, vodka, etc.)
Effective self-care for deeper or larger wounds includes an Epsom salt bath; regular table salt will do if you don’t have Epsom salts on hand. Even a pinprick can be enough to give bacteria an opening into your body. In one case, a gentleman ended up with necrotizing fasciitis from a tiny puncture wound caused by a pine needle on his Christmas tree.
Another point to remember is to discuss sterilization and hygiene before any surgery, whether in-patient or outpatient. Sadly, a number of these infections start in hospitals.
Necrotizing fasciitis is rare. If you’re careful to treat your injuries properly, you’ll go a long way to preventing even the faint chance that you might develop a flesh-eating condition. Perhaps more importantly, the steps toward minimizing the risk of this disease can also help you avoid many other health risks.
It’s all part of being ready for anything in these unprecedented times, when self-reliance is key.