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Infectious Diseases

Flesh eating bacteria

03/17/2006

Question:

I am residing in a home where the previous tenant had the flesh eating bacteria. Should I be concerned touching the knobs, carpets, shower floor, etc. If so, how do I sterilize everything? Not sure how long it stays active on inanimate objects or if it does at all. Thanks for your help.

Answer:

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that can destroy skin and the soft tissues beneath it, including fat and the tissue covering the muscles (fascia). Because these tissues often die rapidly, a person with necrotizing fasciitis is sometimes said to be infected with "flesh-eating" bacteria, especially Streptococcus pyogenes. The bacteria that produce the toxins that cause necrotizing fasciitis can be passed from person to person. However, a person who acquires the bacteria is unlikely to develop a severe infection unless he or she has an open wound, chickenpox, or an impaired immune system. Most people will not get necrotizing fasciitis. You generally do not have to worry about getting the disease, because the bacteria that cause the disease usually do not cause infection unless they enter the body through a cut or other break in the skin. In very rare cases, the bacteria can be spread from one person to another through close contact such as kissing. People who live or sleep in the same household as an infected person or who have direct contact with the mouth, nose, or pus from a wound of someone with necrotizing fasciitis have a greater risk of becoming infected. If you have been in close personal contact with someone who develops necrotizing fasciitis, there is a small chance that your doctor may recommend that you take an antibiotic medicine to help reduce your chances of getting an infection. If you do develop any symptoms of an infection after being in close contact with someone who has necrotizing fasciitis, see your doctor right away. To help prevent any kind of infection, wash your hands often, and always keep cuts, scrapes, burns, sores, and bites clean.

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Response by:

Pamposh   Kaul, MD Pamposh Kaul, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati