The Signs of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Two recent cases of the infection are reminders for people to know how to stay safe when swimming this summer.

Two recent cases of flesh-eating bacteria in Florida, one of which led to the death of a woman, are reminders for people to know how to stay safe when swimming this summer.

The disease is a bacterial infection that spreads quickly and kills tissue at the infection site and all over the body. It can enter the body after a surgery or through cuts, bug bites or scrapes. About 25-30% of cases lead to death, according to WebMD.

Symptoms include increasing pain in the area of the cut or skin opening, pain than is worse than what would be expected from that cut, redness and warmth around the wound, flu-like symptons (diarrhea, nausea, fever, dizziness, weakness or tiredness) and intense thirst.

As the infection advances, symptoms include swelling and a purple-colored rash, large marks of the same color that turn into blisters with a dark fluid, discoloration and peeling of the tissue. Critical symptoms often occur within four to five days of the infection and include severe drop in blood pressure, toxic shock and unconsciousness.

The bacteria thrive in warm salt water, and most cases happen in the Gulf Coast region, such as Florida.

Experts warn not to swim in natural bodies of water if you have an open cut or scrape, especially during the summer.

Two cases of the disease made headlines this month. A 12-year-old girl was vacationing in Florida when she contracted necrotizing fasciitis. She had a scrape on her toe from skateboarding when she swam in the ocean. Doctors were able to cut out the infection from her leg and save her life.

A 77-year-old woman wasn't as lucky as the girl. Lynn Fleming was walking along Coquina Beach when she fell into the water and got a cut on her shin. Though she saw a doctor a few days later to get a tetanus shot and antibiotics, the disease quickly spread through her body. She died just two weeks later.

Lynn's son Wade is warning people to pay attention to any symptoms a loved one may be experiencing.

"Maybe it could have been diagnosed a little earlier and we'd just be dealing with a bad leg injury but not a life lost," he said.

"It's just unimaginable and that's why we are trying to get the word out to hopefully save somebody else."