- Noelle Guastucci of California is recovering in the hospital after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria over Fourth of July weekend.
- Guastucci says she has no idea how she developed necrotizing fasciitis and hadn't been in water recently before her diagnosis.
- Doctors explain why most cases necrotizing fasciitis are not related to water, the symptoms to watch for, and how to protect yourself from the fast-moving infection.
A California woman is recovering in the hospital after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria over Fourth of July weekend—and she has no idea how she got it in the first place.
Noelle Guastucci told Fox 5 San Diego that she started having "excruciating" pain in her left foot over the holiday weekend. "On a scale from one to 10, it was an 11. It felt like someone had poured acid on my foot," Guastucci said. Her left foot began to swell and develop a rash and, within minutes, she could barely see her toes. (The images are graphic, but you can find them here.)
Guastucci was taken to her local emergency room, where she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, better known as flesh-eating disease. "I was facing possible amputation. I was told if I had waited a few hours I possibly could've lost my life," she said.
Her family has started a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses and the care of her five-year-old daughter, Grace, who has Down syndrome.
Flesh-eating bacteria has been in the news lately, with several people sharing their stories of going in infected waters and contracting necrotizing fasciitis. With this condition, the bacteria enters their body through a cut or wound and then proliferates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But Guastucci said she hadn't been in water recently before her diagnosis.
Guastucci was put on antibiotics, and she recently learned that they're working. While she's still hospitalized, she's expected to be discharged in a few days.
"Her doctor said that she would have passed away in another twelve hours or so if she hadn't had the immediate surgery when she did," her GoFundMe states. "The surgery was attended by fourteen doctors and assistants as they worked to remove the affected tissue. Fortunately, they did not have to amputate and were able to remove the diseased tissue. Now, she starts the long and agonizing process of rehabilitation, including multiple skin grafts in the months to come."
What is necrotizing fasciitis again?
Necrotizing fasciitis is usually caused by a bacteria like Streptococcus or a strain of Staphylococcus, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the John's Hopkins Center for Health Security. While it's been in the news a lot lately, necrotizing fasciitis is actually pretty rare.
How common is it for someone to get flesh-eating bacteria without going into water?
While you've heard a lot lately about cases of flesh-eating bacteria after someone goes into infected water, "most cases of flesh-eating bacteria are not related to water," Dr. Adalja says.
Instead, it's more common that someone contracts necrotizing fasciitis from bacteria that lives on their skin. "Your skin is not a sterile surface and there are lots of bacteria that live there," Dr. Adalja explains. Having a cut or wound in your skin can allow bad bacteria like Streptococcus or a certain strain of Staphylococcus to work its way into your body and spread.
What are the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis?
This infection moves fast. Symptoms of a cut or wound infected with necrotizing fasciitis usually start a few hours after you've been hurt, Dr. Adalja says. You'll typically notice pain or soreness in the area, and it often feels more intense than what you'd expect with your type of injury.
Redness and swelling can also develop in the area and, if the infection isn't caught and treated in time, you can develop low blood pressure and even sepsis, Dr. Adalja says.
"The infection can progress quickly, which is why people should not wait and seek medical care as soon as possible," says Richard R. Watkins, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University and an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio.
How worried about this should you be?
You shouldn't stay awake at night worrying about necrotizing fasciitis, but it's a good idea to be aware of the symptoms and take proper precautions, Dr. Adalja says. That means thoroughly washing any cuts or nicks you develop with soap and water and keeping an eye on wounds to see if they become hot and swollen. "Not every cut in your skin will lead to this, but it's important to keep track of them," he says.
And, while most cases of flesh-eating bacteria aren't due to infected water, it's still a good idea to steer clear of beaches, lakes, and rivers when you have a cut or wound, just to be on the safe side.
Guastucci is still recovering, but has been encouraged by all the support after sharing her story. "Her spirits are lifted by your kind and incredible thoughts, prayers and donations, and she'll never forget each and every one of you," states her GoFundMe account, which has received $7,000 toward the $10,000 goal. To help out Guastucci and her family, click here.
Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here. For added fun, follow us on Instagram.
This Woman Contracted Flesh-Eating Bacteria Without Going Into Water, Source:https://www.prevention.com/health/a28447165/california-woman-noelle-guastucci-flesh-eating-bacteria/