What is the 'flesh-eating' infection that recently claimed leg of B.C. firefighter?

A firefighter from British Columbia is recovering in a Hong Kong hospital after contracting a flesh-eating infection that forced the amputation of his leg during a family vacation earlier this month. Here are some facts about the disease, necrotizing fasciitis.

WHAT IS NECROTIZING FASCIITIS?

— Rare, fast-moving infection that can kill within hours

— Can cause gangrene, or soft tissue death, as it cuts off blood supply

— High mortality rate

— May start with a minor cut or scrape, or follow chickenpox

— There may be no obvious wound or injury

WHAT CAUSES IT?

— Bacteria including group A streptococcus; the same bacteria can cause skin infections, strep throat, scarlet fever or rheumatic fever

— Scientists don't fully understand why "strep A" bacteria causes severe disease in some, while others carry it without getting sick

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

— Severe pain in a limb

— Pain that exceeds what you'd expect from visual signs, such as redness

HOW IS IT TREATED?

— Antibiotics, though they're often not enough

— Surgery to remove dead tissue or even limbs

HOW IS IT PREVENTED?

— There is no vaccine against group A streptococcus infections

— Proper care for wounds and scrapes

— Taking antibiotics if you are sick with strep throat or a related infection in order to reduce the likelihood of transmitting it to someone else

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press