After The Storm: The Real Risks Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

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While the oceans have retreated, those impacted by Hurricane Harvey continue to deal with the aftermath. Amid returning to what’s left of their homes, residents are plagued with further dangers as they attempt to rebuild their lives. Take 31-year-old, Josue Zurita, who according to the Houston Chronicle, died two months after Harvey made landfall in Texas, due to complications stemming from the storm.

In the process of helping repair several homes damaged by flooding, Zurita contracted a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection known as necrotizing fasciitis, the Galveston County Health District announced. Just one week after being diagnosed, Zurita passed away. Per CNN, Zurita is one of a handful of victims. Nancy Reed, a 77-year-old Houston-area woman, and J.R. Atkins, a former first responder also contracted the flesh-eating bacterial infection from Harvey floodwaters. Atkins survived.

Since 2010, the rare infection has impacted about 700 to 1,100 people per year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here’s what you need to know about the serious bacterial skin infection and how to protect yourself.

What is necrotizing fasciitis?

Necrotizing means “causing the death of tissues,” and necrotizing fasciitis is a fast-spreading bacterial infection that can be deadly in a very short amount of time, the CDC says.

Does it spread?

In most cases, an individual with the infection does not spread it to other people. In fact, cases occur sporadically and randomly. The most common way of contracting necrotizing fasciitis is through a break in the skin, such as cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, or puncture wounds.

Who is at-risk?

While a strong immune system and good hygiene reduces your risk of necrotizing fasciitis, people who have other health issues that may lower their body’s ability to fight infection increase their chances. Such medical conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Other chronic health conditions that weaken the body’s immune system