A Closer Look: Rare But Potentially Fatal Fleshing-Eating Bacteri

By Lynn Lewis - lynnl@landings.org
Communications Manager

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Landings resident Dr. Joel Rosenstock who helped ensure the facts of this article. Dr. Rosenstock specializes in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease and is a Medical Director in Atlanta, Georgia.

As we enjoy the final days of summer 2023, it is prudent to remain mindful of the rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection, Necrotizing Fasciitis -- more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several cases of flesh-eating bacteria are reported in the Gulf Coast region each year. The bacteria that can lead to Necrotizing Fasciitis occurs when temperatures rise and heat the water, a normal and expected summer occurrence for those living in coastal areas and along the Gulf Coast.

When the rise in water temperature happens, there is an overproduction of a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus. The CDC reports that of the cases of necrotizing fasciitis approximately 100 deaths are caused by this bacterium, which can be contracted through swimming in coastal waters and by eating raw shellfish. In severe instances, Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep) also can lead to necrotizing infections. In fact, it is thought to be the most common cause of necrotizing infections. Since 2010, the CDC estimates that 700 to 1,200 cases of Group A Strep occur annually in the United States.

As with all diseases, knowledge is power when it comes to preventing flesh-eating bacteria. Below are facts offered by the CDC to protect yourself and your loved ones against Necrotizing Fasciitis. You can read more on the CDC’s website (www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/necrotizing-fasciitis.html). However, don’t be consumed by fear when you read about this disease.

“Remember, while Necrotizing Fasciitis is a frightening infection, it is quite rare,” said Dr. Rosenstock.

Necrotizing Fasciitis can spread rapidly, so time is crucial to ensuring the best outcome. Be sure to seek medical help immediately if your skin becomes red, warm, swollen, or extremely painful after an injury or exposure to brackish water.  

How You Can Contract Necrotizing Fasciitis

   The bacteria most commonly enter the body through a break in the skin, such as those listed below.

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Burns
  • Insect bites
  • Puncture wounds
  • Surgical wounds
  • People can also get necrotizing fasciitis after blunt trauma (an injury that does not break the skin).


  • A red, warm, or swollen area of skin that quickly spreads.
  • Severe pain, including pain beyond the area of the skin that is red, warm, or swollen.
  • Fever
  • Ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin
  • Changes in the color of the skin
  • Pus or oozing from the infected area
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Diarrhea or nausea

Health Factors that Increase Risk of Contracting Necrotizing Fasciitis

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver
  • Cancer

Tips for Preventing

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Clean and care for wounds
  • If you have open wounds or skin infections avoid hot tubs, swimming pools, and natural bodies of water (e.g., lake, rivers, and oceans).







This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

Visit landings.org to read the original article.