Nectrotizing Fasciitis: What is it?

Most cases of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh eating bacteria, require surgery to be treated.</p>

Most cases of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh eating bacteria, require surgery to be treated.

Necrotizing fasciitis made national headlines this week after 24-year-old Aimee Copeland was shown fighting for her life after contracting one type of the flesh-eating bacteria during a zip line accident.

According to the National Institute of Health, necrotizing fasciitis, also known as necrotizing soft tissue infection, is a rare and severe bacterial infection caused by a variety of bacteria.

The word "necrotizing" refers to the fact that the infection causes body tissue to die. The bacteria enters the body through a minor cut or scrape and grows, releasing harmful substances that kill tissue and impact blood flow, according to the NIH. The bacteria enters the bloodstream as the tissue dies, spreading rapidly throughout the body.

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One of the most severe forms, which is usually deadly, is caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes.

The type that Copeland contracted is aeromonas hydrophila, according to CNN.

The FDA says aeromonas hydrophila is found in freshwater and brackish water and can cause infections through open wounds or if ingested.

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According to a 2010 report by Clinical Microbiology Reviews, aeromonas-related necrotizing fasciitis mortality rates are upward of 60 percent, said ABC News.

The symptoms when one contracts a necrotizing soft tissue infection include a painful lump or bump on the skin, which changes into a bruise-like area, sometimes in less than an hour. The center of the wound may become black and die, and the skin may break open, oozing fluid. Other symptoms include fever, sweating, chills, nausea, dizziness and shock, according to the NIH.

Treatments of the condition include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and surgery to remove the infected tissue, according to WedMD. Surgery is almost always needed, says WebMD, and in some cases several surgeries, including amputations, are needed to save the person's life.