Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and destroys the body’s soft tissue, such as skin and muscle. The infection can strike randomly. But individuals with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases, are at higher risk.

Symptoms may start hours after a wound (cut, bruise, scratch or surgery) and include:

— pain or soreness, similar to a pulled muscle

— warm or hot skin with red or purplish areas of swelling that spread quickly

— ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin

— worsening pain that’s far out of proportion to how the area looks

— fever, chills, fatigue or vomiting may follow the initial wound or soreness

If you think you may have these symptoms after a wound, see a doctor immediately.

Proper wound care can help to prevent a bacterial skin infection:

— Keep draining or open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed.

— Don’t delay first aid of even minor, noninfected wounds such as blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin.

— If you have an open wound or active infection, avoid whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools and other common areas until the infections are healed.

— Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Sources: U.S. CDC and the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation

Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and...