A flesh-eating bacteria is mysteriously spreading in Japan, with over 500 people infected in 2017.
The bacteria is potentially fatal, so doctors and researchers are racing to find the reason for the alarming increase in the number of victims this year.
What We Know About The Flesh-Eating Bacteria In Japan
A total of 525 patients have been rushed to the hospital with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which is caused by an infection of the flesh-eating bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes or group A streptococcus.
The number, which is the highest annual number of STSS cases since 1999, has steadily increased since 2013 in which only 203 cases were reported. Out of the 525 patients, 66 are from Tokyo, 40 from Kanagawa, 32 from Aichi, 31 from Fukuoka, and 28 from Hyogo. Most of the infected people are aged 30 years or older, with many of the patients being elderly.
Group A streptococcus mainly brings strep throat to children. However, a part of the bacteria may possibly develop into a severe and often fatal strain, leading to symptoms that include fever plus pain and swelling in the hands and the feet. The swelling then takes several hours to spread, leading to necrosis on some tissue surrounding the muscles and multiple organ failures.
Patients who suffer from STSS may die within hours after the onset of multiple organ failures, with their bodies entering critical stages after short periods of time. The fatality rate at this point is 30 percent.
Penicillin-based antibiotics present a proven treatment against group A streptococcus and STSS, but it is necessary to give the patients the drugs at an early stage before the bacteria have spread throughout the body.
Ken Kuchi, an infectious diseases professor at the Tokyo Women's Medical University, said that Japan, especially the elderly, need to be careful about possibly being infected with the disease.
Kuchi believes that the first symptoms likely appear at the victim's feet, so people who notice that their feet are swelling up should visit the hospital right away to check if they have been infected.
The exact cause of the increasing number of STSS cases in Japan, however, is still under investigation.
Other Reports Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria
Unfortunately, reports of flesh-eating bacteria have not been limited to within Japan. Two recent cases of flesh-eating bacteria were related to Hurricane Harvey. In September, 77-year-old Nancy Reed died of the flesh-eating infection known as necrotizing fasciitis, which she received after she fell into the contaminated water from the flood caused by the storm.
In October, two months after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the same kind of infection claimed another life in 31-year-old Josue Zurita, a carpenter who helped repair homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Also in October, Lindsey Hubley filed a lawsuit against the Canadian hospital where she gave birth after she lost her limbs due to necrotizing fasciitis.