The Union Recorder

May 24, 2013

Lake-goers urged to take precaution on the waters

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Memorial Day weekend is here and families and friends are preparing to spend time on lakes Sinclair and Oconee. As outdoor and water sport enthusiasts kick off boating season, hospital officials urge individuals to take precaution and practice proper wound care to help prevent bacterial infections from starting. 

During this time last year, a Milledgeville resident contracted a form of flesh-eating bacteria near his lake residence. He endured partial amputation after he sustained a cut that later became infected with the bacteria.

The local incident followed the publicized north Georgia case of then 24-year-old Aimee Copeland who developed necrotizing fasciitis after cutting her leg in a May 1, 2012 fall from a homemade zip line over a west Georgia river. Her left leg, right foot and both hands were amputated. Another similar case also occurred in South Carolina, where a mother of newborn twins contracted the bacteria after giving birth.

ORMC Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Sarah Mack said symptoms of the flesh-eating bacteria can be confusing and may delay a person from seeking medical attention quickly.

“The symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis often start within hours after an injury and may seem like another illness or injury. Some people infected with necrotizing fasciitis may complain of soreness, similar to that of a pulled muscle. The skin may be warm with discolored, red or purplish, areas of swelling that spread rapidly,” she said. “There may be ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin. Patients often describe their pain as severe. Fever, chills, fatigue or vomiting may follow the initial wound or soreness.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9,000 to 11,500 cases of invasive Group A Streptococcus (GAS) disease, the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, occurs each year in the United States, resulting in 1,000 to 1,800 deaths annually. Usually, infections from GAS are generally mild or moderate and are easily treated.

The most commonly recognized way of getting the infection is through a cut, scrape or burn on the skin. Others acquire the infection from blunt trauma that results in bruising.

“If you think you may have symptoms after a wound, see a doctor right away. It is best to use common sense and good wound care as the best ways to prevent a bacterial skin infection,” Mack said. “Don’t delay first aid of minor, non-infected wounds like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin. If you have an open wound or active infection, avoid common-use sites like whirlpools, hot tubs and swimming pools until infections are healed.”

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