Hawaii hit hardest in US by rare flesh-eating bacteria

Dr. Alan Tice
Dr. Alan Tice

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL)- The flesh-eating bacteria is relatively unknown but compared to the country, it hits hardest in Hawaii with 120 documented cases the last ten years.

One out of ten people admitted to the hospital for it, actually die. It enters a person's body through a cut rapidly and destructively.

You're amongst hundreds of cars on the H-1 Freeway. On the way home from work or school, then suddenly you have a fender bender. Others around you are ok but you aren't. That's how fast and randomly the flesh-eating bacteria attacks you. The proper name is "Nercrotizing Fasciitis."

Dr. Alan Tice says it's unpredictable, non-discriminating and it destroys skin and the soft tissues beneath it, because they often die rapidly, it's called flesh-eating.

"Most people survive if they're treated aggressively, but it's difficult to recognize," said infectious diseases consultant Dr. Alan Tice.

Poisons and toxins are injected under skin causing symptoms like swelling, pains and chills. By the time doctors notice, it may be too late.

"Antibiotics may not be enough and these people can terribly ill when they're admitted, you need a surgeon to cut this away," said Dr. Tice.

Which is not easy for a surgeon to decipher which tissues are dead and which need to stay to save someone's life. People with diabetes and older adults are most susceptible to the bacteria, but everyone needs to be accountable for their own health.

"Don't ignore your infection in particular, but learn about where they are, what they are and what you can do about it," said Dr. Tice.

Researchers say Hawaii has a higher rate of the bacteria possibly because its warm, wet climate contributes to the growth of bacteria and contamination. It's rare but the good news is it's not considered contagious.