It's the scariest health threat of the summer. But how worried should you be about necrotizing fasciitis, better known as "carnivorous disease"?
Although US officials issued no warnings about the sometimes deadly condition of upset stomach this summer, cases of necrotizing fasciitis appear to emerge with alarming frequency this year. Nine cases of rare infection have already been reported in the US, including some near the home and three deaths.
Often the patients are normal people who have dared to take a bath on the beach on a hot day
"These are very dramatic, terrible cases," says Bruce Hirsch, infectious disease doctor Manhasset, LI, North Shore University Hospital, the post office.
Here's what you need to know to stay safe. [1
For starters, there is not just a carnivorous bacterium that can be avoided.
The severe infection can be caused by numerous insect strains – almost 30 – found in all environments, including salt water (Vibrio vulnificus), fresh water (Aeromonas hydrophila) and simply on the skin (group A streptococci).
How do you get it?
Often, the disease enters a person's system when it floats in bacteria-infected waters, while having a "disruption on the surface of the skin" – causing a cut, a burning, a scratching or a Insect bite of any size means, says Hirsch.
However, some patients insist that they did not have any open wounds – and the CDC notes that a cut may not be necessary, as cases of necrotizing fasciitis have been reported following a blunt trauma that has not injured the skin ,
In addition, patients can become infected with Vibrio bacteria in other, wound-free ways: they can eat raw or uncooked seafood, according to the CDC.
What are the first signs of necrotizing fasciitis?
However, when the bacteria break through the body and the carnivorous beetles get out, they continue to attack the skin and other tissues surrounding nerves, muscles and blood vessels, according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases.  "It penetrates deep into the tissue and spreads quickly. These are powerful toxins that digest and destroy tissues, "says Hirsch.
In fact so fast that NORD says the bacteria can destroy one centimeter of meat per hour. It can also be life-threatening and lead to toxic shock syndrome or organ failure.
Early symptoms of a carnivorous bacterial infection can mimic the flu, with fever, body pain, and "severe pain" occurring at the wound site frequently, says Hirsch.
Although known for its gruesome photos, carnivorous bacteria sometimes do not look good: many patients have no visible signs of infection, making it difficult for doctors to diagnose. People, according to Hirsch, will "have extreme pain and have nothing to show".
Other symptoms include redness, swelling and sensitivity in the area of the infected area, sudging from the wound, dizziness, fatigue and diarrhea. The CDC recommends that you go to the hospital for fever and red or swollen body parts.
One in three persons with necrotizing fasciitis who will die according to CDC.
Who is endangered?
Necrotizing fasciitis "can affect anyone at any age," says Hirsch. These include 7-year-olds such as Amilian Villa (pictured) from the Bronx, who required left-arm amputation in 2017, and the elderly, like 77-year-old Carolyn Fleming from Ellenton, Florida, died following a fall on the Beach and was prone to infection in June.
Although it can happen to anyone, those with compromised immune systems – people with diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or cancer – should be extra cautious, according to the CDC.
How is necrotizing fasciitis treated?
Now for a good news: necrotizing fasciitis is still very rare and rarely contagious to the CDC. It can be treated with antibiotics if it is intercepted early enough and if needed surgically (often by amputation).
According to researchers from Cooper University, it's also unlikely that you will contract an infection if you are reasonably healthy Hospital in Camden, NJ, which has treated several patients for this disease in recent years.
"In all cases we have seen, patients had known risk factors (liver disease, diabetes or other immunodeficiencies). "They wrote in a recent report.
Should you avoid the beach?
Of course not, says Hirsch: Despite the torrent of coverage, the doctor and his manhasset team saw only one case of carnivorous disease last summer, and that was not the case in 2019.
"I have not seen or heard any local cases this year and work in a busy hospital," says Hirsch. "Not this summer, not yet and hopefully not at all."
Carnivorous Bacteria Card
The map above shows cases of carnivorous bacteria in 2019. Each blue dot indicates a report of necrotizing fasciitis. Of the nine reported cases of necrotizing fasciitis in 2019, six were contracted in the Gulf of Mexico. The warm water provides ideal conditions for bacteria that thrive in 55 degrees or warmer waters.
The tristate water used to be too cold for carnivorous bacteria to thrive – but not anymore. From 2008 to 2016, only one case of Vibrio vulnificus had occurred at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. In 2017 and 2018, doctors treated five infections, all of which were associated with water or seafood from New Jersey's adjacent Delaware Bay. In a report, researchers hypothesized that bacteria could "spread due to rising sea temperatures due to climate change".