Phoenix doc: Don't panic over flesh-eating bacteria cases

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PHOENIX -- Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria, has been in national headlines quite a bit lately, thanks to three high-profile cases.

Banner Thunderbird Medical Center's infection control expert Dr. Mandeep Rai said these kinds of infections are as uncommon as they are serious.

"I think these are random cases," Rai said.

With the holiday weekend coming up, the tradition kickoff to summer, people will likely flock to Arizona's lakes and rivers. Do they -- and you -- need to be worried.

Rai says no.

"What I would recommend would be common sense, what's intuitive," she said. "If you have cuts on your skin, if you have any condition that would predispose you to skin infections ..., stay away from water that's not chlorinated."

Rai said transplant patients and those who are immunosuppressed should also exercise caution.

"If you're young and healthy, feel free to go in and indulge in all the water sports," Rai continued. "If you do get injured, seek medical attention."

If you do get hurt, two symptoms that should send you to urgent care or even the emergency room are a sudden fever or pain out of proportion with the wound.

Rai explained that necrotizing fasciitis is most often caused by strep. Fewer than 200 patients in Arizona were identified with strep that causes invasive disease, and none of those cases were flesh-eating.

"The chances and the odds are extremely rare," she said. "You're more likely to get hit by a bus walking across the street than get one of these infections."