Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

'Flesh-Eating Bacteria' FAQ

Who is most at risk, and how can people minimize the risk?

Those who eat raw seafood and those who have open wounds and go into warm saltwater risk infection are at risk.

"People with underlying health problems and people who are immune-compromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at higher risk," Blackmore says.

Don't go into the water if you have broken skin or open wounds.

Don't eat raw shellfish, especially oysters. Refrigerate leftover fish promptly.

What are typical symptoms?

Someone who eats seafood infected with the bacteria may have vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

An infected wound can become ulcerated -- redden, ooze pus, streak with red lines, or grow in size -- and the skin can break down.

Someone with a compromised immune system may experience fever, chills, very low blood pressure associated with shock, and blistering skin lesions.

Seek medical help right away if you notice these symptoms, Blackmore says.

It's been called a ''flesh-eating'' bacteria -- is that true?

"In vulnerable patients with wound infections, the bacteria can create severe tissue damage and skin breakdown -- necrotizing fasciitis -- at the wound site," Blackmore says. While this is often referred to as ''flesh-eating bacteria," Blackmore says, medical experts consider it a misnomer. ''The bacteria don't actually consume the flesh. The bacteria have toxins that are destroying the cells in the tissue. The cells end up dying from the toxin exposure."

How is it diagnosed, and what is the treatment?

Besides observing symptoms, doctors can test the blood, the wound, or the stool to confirm the diagnosis.

Patients receive antibiotics. The length of treatment and the dose vary by the type of antibiotic used. Some regimens are up to 14 days.

The infected wound is treated, and surgeons may be needed to clean the wound and remove dead tissue. Nurses may apply special bandages to care for the wound.

"Healthy people typically fully recover from an infection," Blackmore says. "Persons with milder infections can recover within a few days. People with underlying illnesses who have more severe forms of the disease have a more extended recovery period."

1 | 2

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing