Even though flesh-eating bacterial infections (necrotizing fasciitis) are quite rare, the recent reports of three new cases – Aimee Copeland, 24, (a college student); Lana Kuykendall, 36, (a paramedic who just gave birth to twins); Bobby Vaughn, 32, (a landscaper being treated in the same Atlanta hospital as Copeland) – prompts me to issue this warning: If you suffer a cut or abrasion that doesn’t seem to be infected but is causing excruciating pain, possibly along with other symptoms like nausea and/or headaches, rush to the nearest emergency room. If you wait until inflammation and swelling occur, and the flesh-eating bacteria (many varieties of these normally benign germs live on our skin) are spewing tissue-destroying toxins as they quickly spread through the thin-layered fascia that surrounds muscles and organs, then amputations and massive tissue debridement will be needed to treat this often deadly malady. Occasionally, as in a deep muscle bruise, no visible wound is needed to contract this horrible infection.
Fun fact: Necrotizing fasciitis was described in the ancient world, and it probably caused the death of Herod the Great as it ate away his thighs and genitals!
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