The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, worldwide, rates of NF increased from the mid-1980s to early 1990s" (http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume5/issue8/features/hu.html)
Those most at risk for infection include those with "medical conditions that weaken their defenses against infections, including people with cancer or diabetes; those abusing alcohol or drugs; or those with chronic heart and lung disease" ("Flesh-eating bacteria," 2006, par. 1). As uncommon as it is for even these people to contract the condition, it is even less common for healthy people. Nevertheless, there have been some cases in which no cause could be identified (par. 1).
Necrotizing fasciitis shares symptoms of other medical conditions and does not have any unique symptoms. Thus, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose. Moreover, it is extremely uncommon, with only 500-1500 cases per year appearing estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Early symptoms look like so many other things. None of the symptoms are exclusive to this disease, and since many emergency rooms have never seen a case, it is difficult to diagnose" (par. 6). ...
e pain or tenderness, especially with no apparent injury or wound, swelling, red or dusky blue rash, flulike symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, fever, confusion, dizziness and weakness" (par.1). Symptoms follow an approximate timeline. "Within the first 24 hours, a small cut that may not necessarily look infected quickly becomes painful. Pain may also result in the same region of the body as the cut. Flu-like symptoms also begin to occur, inluding nausea, diarrhea and fever. Within three to four days, the painful area will begin to swell and may show a purplish rash plus large dark marks that will become blisters filled with a blackish fluid surrounded by bluish, white or dark mottled flaky appearance. Within four to five days, a person becomes unconscious. At this point, most people would die if medical attention is not received" (MacDonald, 1998, par. 4). Obviously, this is a rapidly progressing disease for which early detection and treatment is of paramount importance.
In one documented case of the disease, a woman who got a paper cut from flipping through a magazine was awakened that evening with throbbing pain so severe she told the doctor it "felt like her finger was going to explode" (par. 25). "Three days after the initial cut, a black dot appeared on her fingertip. Within a few hours, when she sought a doctor's care, that same black dot had grown to the size of a dime and extended down her finger" (par. 26). According to her doctor, the infection spread so rapidly that the woman might have had to have her entire arm amputated, or she could have even died.
Treatment and Prevention
Due to the rapidity with which this kind of infection spreads, it is very difficult to treat. Prevention is also difficult because the disease can be brought on by cuts and abrasions