Flesh Eating Bacteria Hospitalizes Person in Eastern Carolina

Imagine being eaten alive from the inside out. This year alone, over 80 North Carolinians have been diagnosed with a strain of flesh eating bacterium known as Streptoccocus A.

This deadly bacteria has already killed eight people across the state so far and Pitt County Memorial Hospital has recently treated a person for the same infection. The bacteria, which already lives inside of you, destroys vital body tissues. It can cause death within 12 to 24 hours if not treated.

Doctors say it can stem from something as simple as a minor trauma to your body. But doctors want you to know it's unlikely the bacteria will manifest into a deadly disease. It mainly affects people age 55 and up and attacks four in 100,000 people.

Flesh eating bacteria is not contagious from person to person. Also, you cannot contract the infection at the hospital.

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Group A Streptococcus (GAS)

  • Group A streptococcus is a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin.
  • People may carry group A streptococci in the throat or on the skin and have no symptoms of illness.
  • Most GAS infections are relatively mild illnesses such as "strep throat," or impetigo. On rare occasions, these bacteria can cause other severe and even life-threatening diseases.

How does it spread?

  • These bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin.
  • Treating an infected person with an antibiotic for 24 hours or longer generally eliminates their ability to spread the bacteria. However, it is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed.
  • Some virulent strains of GAS may cause severe disease.
  • Severe, sometimes life-threatening, GAS disease may occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs. These infections are termed "invasive GAS disease."

Why does Invasive Group A Streptococcal Disease occur?

  • Few people who come in contact with GAS will develop invasive GAS disease.
  • Invasive GAS infections occur when the bacteria get past the defenses of the person who is infected.
  • This may occur when a person has sores or other breaks in the skin that allow the bacteria to get into the tissue, or when the person’s ability to fight off the infection is decreased because of chronic illness or an illness that affects the immune system.

Preventing Group A Streptococcal Infections

  • The spread of all types of GAS infection can be reduced by good hand washing, especially after coughing and sneezing and before preparing foods or eating.
  • Persons with sore throats should be seen by a doctor who can perform tests to find out whether the illness is strep throat. If the test result shows strep throat, the person should stay home from work, school, or day care until 24 hours after taking an antibiotic.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to this report.