When 12-year-old Kylei Parker went swimming at a Destin, Florida beach in June, she contracted a life-threatening, bacterial infection known as necrotizing fasciitis. Here’s what families need to know about the flesh-eating bacteria, how to spot symptoms of an infection and preventative measures.
What Caused Kylei’s Infection
Kylei’s family traveled to Florida from Mooresville, Indiana for vacation. During the trip, Kylei went swimming at a Destin beach. On the road trip back to Indiana, the young girl began experiencing pain so intense she was unable to walk.
Michelle Brown, Kylei’s mother, phoned the family pediatrician and made an appointment for the next day. By the time the family reached home, however, Kylei had a fever, her leg was swollen and had red rash. Upon seeing her, the pediatrician immediately sent Kylei to the emergency room.
At the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Kylei was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. This rare and fast-moving bacterial infection enters the body through a break in the skin (in Kylei’s case, a scrape on her toe from a skateboarding accident).
Necrotizing fasciitis is life-threatening, with the Centers for Disease Control and Preventio (CDC) saying one in three people who contract the bacterial infection don’t survive. Signs they suggest parents be on the lookout for:
- A red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly
- Severe pain
Later symptoms can include:
- Ulcers, blisters or black spots on skin
- Pus from the infected area
- Diarrhea or nausea
Kylei had emergency surgery to stop the infection and save her leg. This was followed by two other surgeries whilst she dealt with complications, including sepsis and organ failure. A week later, Kylei was back home, healing and preparing to begin therapy to walk again.
What happened to Kylei could happen to any child. There’s bacteria in just about every body of water we swim in.
“Each lake has its own ecology and its own issues; they’re not like our pools, where we make sure the chlorine and Ph is correct,” Michele Hlavsa, head of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program tells Parentology.
Necrotizing fasciitis is rare, though the CDC is seeing some spikes of it occurring on the east coast; something they’re attributing to increased temperatures caused by climate change.
Families shouldn’t be scared away from swimming in oceans and lakes. There are still ways to protect yourself and your children. By adhering to healthy swimming practices, you can help your family stay safe and have fun in the water this summer.
Michele Hlavsa, head of CDC’s Healthy Swimming program
Today: Mom of Girl Who Contracted Flesh-Eating Bacteria Shares Warning