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On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned should you be about flesh eating bacteria?

As millions of people flock to the beach for summer vacation, our newsfeeds will fill with reported cases of flesh eating bacteria. Also known as necrotizing fasciitis, the bacteria occurs naturally in warm, salt water like those closest to us along the Gulf Coast.

The condition is rare and you should not spend your summer avoiding the water, but there is a risk of serious infection you shouldn’t ignore. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you dive in:

  • Necrotizing fasciitis is a skin infection caused by rare bacteria that enters the body through a break in the skin.
  • To prevent infection, the Center for Disease Control recommends immediately cleaning all minor cuts or injuries sustained in the water with soap and water.
  • Remember to protect any existing cuts or wounds with waterproof coverings and bandages before swimming.
  • If infected, look for early symptoms such as changes in skin color, rapidly spreading inflamed or swollen areas of the skin, fever, nausea, diarrhea or chills.

Symptoms typically begin within a few hours after injury, but can also occur as late as a week after. Contact your doctor and seek immediate treatment if any symptoms occur.