Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Flesh-eating Bacteria Works


Preventing Flesh-eating Bacteria

With what you've read on necrotizing fasciitis/flesh-eating bacteria so far, you are probably taking this illness quite seriously. Although you should be aware of the seriousness of this condition, it doesn't mean that you should barricade yourself at home. Remember, the condition is very rare, and locking yourself at home might not protect you anyway. However, should some of us run for cover more than others? Are there any actions we can take to protect ourselves?

Everyone is at risk for flesh-eating bacteria, even folks you would usually characterize as healthy. That said, there are a few risk factors that do increase your chances of contracting flesh-eating bacteria. You are at higher risk if you already have a poor immune system; just had an infection with a rash, such as chickenpox; have any chronic health issues, such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer; have any cuts or use steroid medications [source: WebMD].

Regardless of whether you fall into any of these categories, there are still a few standard precautions you can take to try to prevent flesh-eating bacteria. To protect yourself and others, follow these basic sound hygiene practices:

  • Take care of your wounds and keep them clean. (For a complete rundown on proper wound care, see the sidebar on the previous page.)
  • Wash your hands frequently. (Think you are a hand-washing master? Review the sidebar on this page to make sure.)
  • Avoid contact with people suffering from a sore-throat-related illness.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes -- remember to turn away from others when you sneeze, and sneeze and/or cough into your arm instead of your hands.
  • Immediately throw out your used tissues.

As important as these hygiene practices are, perhaps the best measure of protection comes from stopping the spread of flesh-eating bacteria. To obtain that protection, be aware of your body, watch for symptoms and contact your doctor with your concerns.

So you've done everything you can to protect yourself -- practicing hand hygiene and watching for symptoms -- but somehow you become one the unfortunate few to contract flesh-eating bacteria. At this point, your goal becomes joining the 60 to 70 percent of people who do defeat this illness. For inspiration, go to the next page to learn about the survival stories of two women who went on to establish a nonprofit organization that serves as a resource and awareness tool on flesh-eating bacteria.