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National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation Warns Watch Out For Vibrio Infections

Virulent Vibrio bacteria that live in warm ocean or tidal waters can turn a small cut into life-threatening flesh-eating disease. Here's what you can do to protect yourself.

NORTH PLAINFIELD, N.J., Aug. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation (NNFF) today issued a public service alert about a potentially deadly bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus. "This microbe can get into the body through a tiny cut in the skin, causing a life-threatening infection," explained Jacqueline Roemmele, executive director of the NNFF. "People who might come in contact with Vibrio need to know what to look for so that they can get immediate treatment."

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium commonly found in warm, brackish waters and estuaries, although with the warming of the oceans, has been detected in more northern waters as well.

The microbe thrives in warm salty and brackish water, common to estuaries and other tidal areas. This summer it has caused outbreaks of serious illnesses in Florida, the Chesapeake Bay area, Louisiana, and many other coastal regions. Some victims have lost limbs to the flesh-eating infection. Others have died.

According to Dr. James Oliver, professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a leading expert on the bacterium, people can get sick from Vibrio from eating raw contaminated oysters (or other raw seafood) or from even a small wound. Many cases occur as the result of small nicks in the skin that happen when people shuck oysters, peel shrimp, or clean fish.

In people with underlying illnesses, Vibrio can cause raging life-threatening infections throughout the entire body. More typically, the microbe causes an infection at the site of the wound. "Tragically, that infection can quickly progress to necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease, often resulting in amputation," said Roemmele. Death occurs in 25 percent of these wound cases.

So how can people protect themselves and their families?

"The most important step is being aware and vigilant about the threat," said Dr. John Crew, director, Advanced Wound Care Center at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., and an expert in treating flesh-eating disease. "If you are swimming or fishing in warm salty water and get a cut or a scrape, you need to keep a close eye on the wound to watch for any signs of infection. If it starts to get inflamed, get immediate medical treatment."

In most cases, treatment with antibiotics will stop the infection. But not always. "If the infection doesn't get better quickly, and especially if the inflamed area starts to grow, then you need to seek out a medical center that has experience with treating flesh-eating disease," said Crew.

Some examples include the Wound Treatment Center at the Opelousas General Health System in Opelousas, Louisiana; the Wound Care Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and Dr. Crew's Wound Care Center at Seton Medical Center. Seton and others are now using a new treatment pioneered by Dr. Crew in which wounds are irrigated with an antimicrobial cleanser called NeutroPhase, made by NovaBay® Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE MKT: NBY). In lab tests, NeutroPhase both kills bacteria and neutralizes the toxins that eat away tissue. In both the medical journal WOUNDS and in interviews, Dr. Crew has described how the treatment works.

"Vibrio infections can be deadly," said Crew. "But with quick and aggressive treatment, we believe it should be possible to save the lives—and the limbs—of anyone who gets infected."

ABOUT THE NATIONAL NECROTIZING FASCIITIS FOUNDATION

The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation (NNFF) is a 501c3 non-profit organization established in 1997 by two survivors of the disease. Since that time, NNFF has evolved to become the world's leading resource for information regarding necrotizing fasciitis, as well as repository of cases reported worldwide.  Its mission is to educate for public awareness regarding recognition of symptoms and preventative measures; to advocate research; to offer resources; and to offer support for those affected by necrotizing fasciitis, so that it may help save lives.  The two founders of the organization, Jacqueline A. Roemmele and Donna Batdorff, have a second edition of their top-selling non-fiction book, Surviving the Flesh-eating Bacteria, being released this summer.  

CONTACT:  Jacqueline Roemmele 
Executive Director 
National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation 
jroemmele@aol.com 
908-422-7744

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140812/135295

SOURCE National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation

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