Flesh eating bacteria: What you need to know about it

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La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – Necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating, is something that some, but not all bacteria can cause.

Bridget Pfaff, Administrative Director for Gundersen Health System, said any pathogen could enter the body if someone has open sores.

Bridget Pfaff, Gundersen Health System

“Its a very rare occurrence but very scary when it happens,” Pfaff said. “That is why it grabs our attention.”

Pfaff said Coulee Region residents should not worry about such necrotizing fasciitis causing bacteria being found in local waters because it is typically found in brackish water. Brackish water is where ocean water meets freshwater, near oceans and inlets.

“I don’t think I would be one to avoid traveling to these areas because of this very rare infection that has a terrifying name,” Pfaff said.

Local health experts strongly recommend people stay out of the water who have the following:

  • A weak immune system,
  • have medical ports in their body,
  • The body is healing from a wound
  • If there are cuts or bumps on their body.
Jo Foellmi, La Crosse County Health Department

“If you are in the water and get cut, get out of the water,” Jo Foellmi, Public Health Nurse for the La Crosse County Health Department said. “Get that area cleaned off with soap and water and then watch it for the swelling and redness. People need to watch for the painful redness that can occur that makes the skin warm to the touch, if that is the case, then its time to seek medical attention.”

Foellmi said any soap, it doesn’t have to antibacterial, plus filtered warm water, works just fine when cleaning a wound.

“If people suspect an infection, they should really seek medical attention. The faster they seek medical attention and get intervention, prescribed the antibiotics, the quicker the antibiotics can enter the body system and help them fight against the bacteria,” Foellmi said.

The CDC reports that since 2010, approximately 700 to 1,200 cases occur each year in the United States.

The CDC’s Active Bacterial Core Surveillance System shows that necrotizing fasciitis does not appear to be rising.

The La Crosse Health Department runs public water testing for the presence of bacteria twice a week at local public beaches. If bacteria levels are too high, health officials will post signs to warn the public not to enter waters.

Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford

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