MANASOTA KEY, Fla. (FOX 13) - Doctors are treating a Manasota Beach-goer for a suspected case of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, marking at least the eighth possible case along the Florida Gulf Coast since March.
The patient wrote on Facebook she had a "tiny pin hole sized cut on my foot and had a scab on it" when she went into the water. She noticed a possible infection and got it treated early, but she is still in a lot of pain and recovering in the hospital.
Since the spring, the other cases have been spread out up and down the Gulf Coast from the Panhandle down to Tampa Bay.
"Typically the bacteria like warmer waters and specifically the brackish waters. So, where the rivers come into the oceans where there's fresh water and a salt water mix, the bacteria are a little more prevalent in those areas," said Dr. Gregory Baker, an AdventHealth physician.
That perfectly describes the Gulf. While necrotizing fasciitis cases seem to making more headlines this year, it's hard to know whether the number of them is increasing. The Florida Department of Health doesn't track these types of cases.
According to the CDC, there are between 700 and 1,200 cases in the U.S. each year, but that does not include all the strains that cause, what's commonly called, flesh-eating bacteria.
"The one characteristic of these infections is they spread very quickly," Baker said. "It's important that when the infection is found, the individual needs to seek treatment and the treatment with a physician needs to be aggressive."
Baker said beach-goers should avoid the water if they have an open or healing wound. The symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis infections are swelling, redness, and severe pain. Doctors urge patients to see a doctor if a wound seems to be getting worse very quickly because this type of infection can worsen in a matter of hours.