The visual effects of flesh-eating bacteria often begin as redness around a minor cut, abrasion, surgical incision or insect bite, then progress to large purple marks that turn into blisters filled with dark fluid, according to WebMD. As the tissue dies, the site appears flaky, peeling and discolored.
Flesh-eating bacteria infections, also called necrotizing fasciitis, are rare in the United States, WebMD explains. Approximately 600 to 700 cases occur annually, with 25 to 30 percent of the cases resulting in death. Receiving early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of survival.
Necrotizing fasciitis destroys more than flesh, WebMD explains. The bacteria, which is similar to the variety that causes strep throat, also destroys muscle and fat tissue. The condition starts by infecting the superficial fascia, a connective tissue under the skin.
During the first 24 hours of infection, redness is the only visual symptom, WebMD reports. Other early symptoms include severe pain around the infection site, flu-like symptoms and frequent thirst due to dehydration. The infection takes a more serious turn within three or four days, with foul-smelling blisters and symptoms associated with gangrene. If patients do not receive treatment within five days of infection, toxic shock, a severe drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness may occur.