Asimple trauma -- as innocuous as a paper-cut or a bruise -- that becomes infected with a certain bacterium can progress within hours to toxic shock, massive organ failure, holes burrowed deep into skin, coma, and skin that falls off in chunks. Treatment for the disease is more primitive than you'd expect from a culture that clones sheep: aggressive surgery on infected body parts.
The over-achieving bacteria responsible for flesh-eating disease, a.k.a. necrotizing fasciitis, reside in the nostrils. A third of the population is estimated to carry these bacteria, known as group A Streptococci, with either no symptoms, or just the mildest sore throat and sniffling. The illness itself is misdiagnosed 90 percent of the time. One woman's doctor told her that he suspected she had necrotizing fasciitis, but asked her to "wait 12 hours and come back." She never made it.
Although there is only a one in a million chance of contracting the flesh-eating bacteria, you just never know... The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict over 1,500 cases for the coming year -- more than ever, actually, though no one knows why -- and skeptics expect that a sizable number of corpses misdiagnosed as "drug-related deaths" should be added to that tally.
But the important question is, do you have it? We've created a handy test to put your fears at ease -- or not, as the diagnosis may be...
Disclaimer: This quiz is not intended for serious use, and it is not intended for actual diagnosis. If you suspect you have flesh-eating disease, go directly to the emergency room and demand to be seen by an infectious disease specialist.
Answer the questions below; points are listed next to each answer. Tally your points and find the corresponding score in the answer key at the end.
- Do you have any of the following: a cut (even minuscule), scrape, abrasion, crack in the skin, or a bruise?
- In the past six months, have you had any of the following: a surgery, cosmetic or non-cosmetic; a C-section birth or any other kind of birth; had an invasive medical treatment; or injected insulin or other medicine for diabetes or other illnesses?
- Have you ever used black-tar heroin?
- Do you use any IV drugs?
- If you use IV drugs, do you use a brand new, sterile syringe every time?
- Do any of these sound familiar: vomiting; diarrhea; nausea; confusion; dizziness; weakness?
- Have you recently had a bout of the flu, or are you currently suffering from the flu?
- Do you feel thirstier than normal?
- In the larger area of your cut or surgery (such as in your arm or leg), do you feel any of the following: pain, like a muscle being strained; warmth; swelling; puffiness; numbness?
- Anywhere on your body, but particularly around the cut or surgery, have you noticed any of the following: an abscess or blister oozing a brown, orange, green, yellow, or blood-tinged pus or watery discharge; skin that looks pale, dusky, discolored, or even black; a mottled, flaky appearance, or holes in the skin?
A. I imagine so.+1
B. I've searched every crevice of my body, and I tell you the answer is no! +0
A. God yes, and it's been hell. +3
B. No, and thank the Lord for that. +0
A. When I need to, yes. +10
B. What is black-tar? +0
A. Of course, doesn't everybody? +4
B. Absolutely not. +0
A. Yes, how dare you suggest otherwise. +0
B. I think so ... well, I can't really remember... +4
A. Funny that you should mention it; I was on my knees in the shower vomiting and shitting my brains out just last night. +5
B. No, I'm a picture of health. +0
A. Yes, must be that season... +2
B. I admit that I am flu-less. +0
A. Yes ... got any Gatorade? +1
B. No, I'm regular. +0
A. Actually, I do. +20
B. No, I can't say I'm feeling that specific sensation. +0
A. Yes ... though my doctor says it's normal. +20
B. No, though I feel like barfing now, thanks. +0
No, you've likely not got it.
Still, if you use IV drugs, stop. If you can't stop, make sure you never share your works (not even filters, cookers, or water), and use a sterile syringe each time. If you must reuse (even on yourself) clean it out with plenty of bleach.
Either you're in the high-risk area or you have some symptoms that could be related to flesh-eating disease. Pay close attention to your body: if you feel any ache in your limb, swelling, or puffiness, go to the hospital immediately and demand to be treated by an infectious disease doctor. And if you use IV drugs, stop. If you can't stop, make sure you never share your works (not even filters, cookers, or water), and use a sterile syringe each time. If you must reuse (even on yourself) clean it out with plenty of bleach.
Go to the emergency room immediately and demand to be treated by an infectious disease doctor. There's a very good chance that you've got it.
You're suffering from advanced symptoms of the flesh-eating disease. Call an ambulance to take you to the emergency room right this second. The hours are ticking down: your life is at stake.
The ex-editor of On Our Backs magazine, Athena Douris loves horror flicks and always shows off her injuries to anyone willing to look. She recently had scalp surgery and slept on her face for two days.