DHEC releases statement regarding potential case of flesh-eating bacteria in Myrtle Beach

Photo of the woman’s infected leg that has gone viral on Facebook (Source: Facebook)
Photo of the woman’s infected leg that has gone viral on Facebook (Source: Facebook)
Published: Jul. 31, 2017 at 10:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2017 at 11:17 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WCSC/WMBF) - SC DHEC has released a statement regarding the potential case of flesh-eating bacteria in the Myrtle Beach area.

"DHEC is aware of the news reports of a potential case of necrotizing fasciitis in the Myrtle Beach area. It's important to note that this type of condition is not necessarily associated with exposure to natural waters like oceans, lakes or rivers or poor water quality." Robert Yanity with DHEC said.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly and kills the body's soft tissue. Unfortunately, necrotizing fasciitis can be deadly in a very short amount of time. Accurate diagnosis, prompt antibiotic treatment and surgery are important to stopping this infection.

"More than one type of bacterium can cause this rare disease, but group A strep is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis. Infections from group A strep bacteria are generally mild and are easily treated. But in cases of necrotizing fasciitis, bacteria can enter the body, usually through a wound, and spread rapidly along the thin sheets of tissue that surround muscles and organs, called fascia.  This is why the illness is called necrotizing fasciitis." Yanity said.

DHEC released information after the family of a Lumberton woman posted to social media that she is in stable condition after allegedly coming in contact with a flesh-eating bacteria while staying in Myrtle Beach.

Neither DHEC nor doctors have confirmed how the woman contracted the bacterial infection.

The victim was airlifted to UNC Medical Center from Southeastern Hospital in Lumberton on Sunday morning in critical condition, according to messages received from her family members.

According to her granddaughter, the family was vacationing in Myrtle Beach last week. The victim was on the balcony of their hotel when she lost her balance in the wind and cut her leg on a chair. The cut wasn't serious, so she did not seek medical attention. According to family, she spent time in the ocean between 23rd Avenue North and 27th Avenue North in the days after she was cut.

On Saturday, the day the family left Myrtle Beach to return to Lumberton, she discovered blisters on her leg. Later that night, the victim's leg was completely purple and covered in blisters. Her blood pressure was also extremely low. That's when her family decided to take her to Southeastern Hospital in Lumberton.

Sunday morning, the woman was airlifted to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and went into surgery an hour later.

Doctors told the family they were trying to save as much of the woman's leg as possible and trying to stop the bacteria from spreading to other parts of her body.

The original post made by the woman's daughter has been shared over 57,000 times and has over 36,000 comments.

DHEC said good wound care is the best way to prevent bacterial skin infections.

  • Keep draining or open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed.
  • Don’t delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds (like blisters, scrapes, or any break in the skin).
  • Avoid spending time in whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools, and natural bodies of water (e.g., lakes, rivers, oceans) if you have an open wound or skin infection.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if washing is not possible.

In 2016, 177 cases of necrotizing fasciitis Group A strep were reported in South Carolina, and for 2017, 146 cases have been reported to date, according to DHEC.

DHEC says they will continue to conduct routine beach monitoring sampling in the Myrtle Beach area. Results of these samples can be found here: https://gis.dhec.sc.gov/beachaccess/

Copyright 2017 WCSC. WMBF contributed to this report. All rights reserved.