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The Rise of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Warming Waters Partially to Blame

The Rise of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

By John Salak –

It is bad enough that it may become increasingly dangerous to plunge into the water for a swim—and this has nothing to do with sharks, killer whales or Portuguese Man of Wars. There are, of course, growing reports of people getting whacked by flesh-eating bacteria after going for a relaxing dip in a warm ocean beach or lake.

Now, however, reports have surfaced that this type of bacteria can creep up on the unsuspecting for all sorts of other reasons, many of which are hard to track.

Take the case of a Scottish mom who happens to live in The Netherlands. Tracy de Jongh Eglin reports she now feels “lucky to be alive” after a year-long battle with a rare flesh-eating disease that left her with a peach-sized hole in her butt and the prospects of long-term physiotherapy, psychotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy to deal with the trauma.

What’s perhaps more troubling is that she and her family just thought she was suffering from the bad flu last January when soon afterward Eglin went into septic shock, collapsed and was rushed into a hospital where she was eventually diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which occurs when bacteria such as Vibrio takes on a life-threatening infection and starts dissolving flesh.

Eglin’s immediate case involved her spending nine days in a coma, undergoing three surgeries to remove the infected tissue and muscle and having her family reportedly told there was only a 10 percent chance of survival.

Ultimately, she did survive. But now almost a year out, nothing is the same for her.

“It’s been so traumatic and changed my life forever,” she said. “I’ve lost 70 pounds and had to learn to walk again. Even now, I still can’t sit down and have to take a special pillow out with me wherever I go.”

Doctors aren’t even sure how she contracted the infection. There aren’t a lot of warm-water swims available in The Netherlands or Scotland for that matter. The problem could have stemmed from something as simple as ingrown hair or a spot.

“I was left completely broken and had to rebuild my life. I was so weak, my voice changed and I had to learn how to walk again,” Eglin said.

Flesh-eating bacteria infections, of course, aren’t new. They have been on the rise for a decade. Health officials, in fact, now report there may be 80,000 related infections every year in the U.S., alone. Admittedly, the vast majority never reach the stage of necrotizing fasciitis.

Many high-profile cases that result in flesh-eating bacteria taking hold resulting in deformity, severe illness or even death have been linked to people getting infections after swimming in warm coastal waters, lakes or brackish water with open wounds between May and October when water temperatures are at their peak.

 

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