Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare infection that's often described in media reports as a condition involving "flesh-eating bacteria." It can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Necrotizing fasciitis spreads quickly and aggressively in an infected person. It causes tissue death at the infection site and beyond.
Every year, between 600 and 700 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. About 25% to 30% of those cases result in death. It rarely occurs in children.
Doctors who suspect E. coli infection will order a type of stool culture that detects strains of E. coli. Because the bacteria can leave the body in only a few days, the sample should be obtained as soon as possible after symptoms appear.
Other tests are sometimes used when the diagnosis is unclear, but these are not yet widely available.
If a child or older adult is diagnosed with E. coli infection, he or she may be watched for development of severe blood or kidney problems. Monitoring requires blood and urine tests to measure essential elements of blood and body fluids.