Zombie Apocalypse: Will Flesh Eating Bacteria Exterminate all Life on Planet Earth?
By Jim Donahue
Despite what you may have read, experts insist there’s no flesh-eating bacteria outbreak in the United States. But if recent high-profile cases of necrotizing fasciitis have shed light on the disease, which affects about 15,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, then more good than harm has been done, they say.
Melissa Croucher is just happy to have her dad back. Melissa’s father, Tad Hawley, lost his leg to a flesh-eating bacteria around Easter. He became sick Sunday afternoon; the following afternoon, we were saying our goodbyes,” said Hawley’s daughter Melissa. It took only 32 hours for the bacteria to take over his body.
“It happened so fast. At first I wasn’t in pain. Then, in just a few minutes, I was in a lot of pain. That’s when I guess the infection took over,” said Hawley. The physician, Croucher, came in and said, “Mr. Hawley, you have a very serious condition. You have flesh-eating bacteria that is ravaging your body. I’m not sure you’re going to live.”
Croucher was there with her dad in the hospital. She said his leg looked like something out of a science fiction movie.“There was tremendous amounts of swelling. There was discoloration. It looked like a child came in with a marker and colored all over his leg. He had large blisters. His leg was oozing blood and puss. It was terrifying.”
This brings the number of recent NF cases in the National spotlight to four.
The medical term for this flesh-eating bacteria is Necrotizing Fasciitis, or NF for short. NF is a bacterial infection. This bacteria attacks the soft tissue and the fascia, which is a sheath of tissue covering the muscle. NF can occur in an extremity following a minor trauma or after some other type of opportunity for the bacteria to enter the body, such as surgery.The Group A Strep infection (flesh eating bacteria) is most common with minor trauma. A mixed bacterial infection is often the cause after surgery.
In order for someone to contract NF, the bacteria must be introduced into the body. This occurs either from direct contact with someone carrying the bacteria, or because of the bacteria being carried by the person him or herself. Group A Strep is the same bacteria that causes strep throat. However, there are various strains of the bacteria, some of which are more powerful than others.
Bobby Vaughn, of Cartersville, Ga., is reportedly in the hospital recovering from the NF bacteria. “It went from the size of a little peanut to a grapefruit fast, whatever it was,” said Vaughn, “I lost a lot of tissue that was in there. I’ve had a total of about five surgeries. I’ve had two there, and I’ve had three here in Augusta.”
And earlier this year, a South Carolina woman, Lana Kuykendall, was diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria shortly after giving birth to twins. She had just come home from the hospital when she noticed that there was a spot on her leg. She went to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with the NF bacteria.
She has undergone seven surgeries thus far. “She still has a long road ahead of her,” said Brian Swaffer, Kuykendall’s brother. “We’re thankful that the infection is contained to just her legs. Her organs, her vitals are good. She’s got a great team of doctors.”
And then there is Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old student from Georgia. She was diagnosed with the flesh-eating bacteria earlier this month after she fell from a homemade zip line. She had her left leg amputated several days ago and had her right foot and both hands amputated as well.
“We identify with this beautiful young girl Aimee, but before this, it hasn’t been sexy for the media. It hasn’t been a topic of interest. My heart is with this poor young girl, but I get calls and emails every day from people who are experiencing this,” says Jacqueline Roemmele, director of the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation and a survivor of the disease. “This is nonstop. It’s every day.”
Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include swelling, pain and redness of the affected area, along with fever, nausea, vomiting, and flu-like symptoms. One tell-tale characteristic is that the symptoms develop rapidly, typically within 24 hours of experiencing a skin wound. Another is that the pain is more severe than seems appropriate for the wound.
Although people who have chronic medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes or who have a compromised immune system or recent vital infection accompanied by a rash are at an increased risk of flesh eating bacteria, many individuals who develop the condition are in good health before the infection sets in.
Therefore, anyone who gets an infection, whether it is from a paper cut, surgical incision, puncture wound, or other trauma, is at risk for flesh eating bacteria. People who experience a deep infection in the bone, muscle, or gastrointestinal system are at greater risk for necrotizing fasciitis because the initial infection and spread is not visible. Flesh eating infection has also been associated with the use of Illegal Bath Salts.
Is this the beginning of the end for the human race?
Will this bacteria be introduced into our water supply or the atmosphere by some group of people hell bent of the destruction of the planet Earth as we know it?
Stay tuned for more info. And remember, you heard it here first.