Rhode Island Firefighter Loses Hand to Flesh-Eating Bacteria

A Rhode Island firefighter has lost a hand to flesh-eating bacteria.

WCVB reports that in June, 32-year-old Braden Leonard was biking in Ballard Park in Newport when he fell and a thorn pricked his right hand.

Leonard told WCVB he went to the emergency room after experiencing “massive inflammation, fever and fatigue.” Doctors then diagnosed the nine-year veteran of the Johnston Fire Department with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection. His hand was amputated to prevent the infection from spreading and he was in the hospital for 10 days.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes necrotizing fasciitis as “a serious bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and destroys the body’s soft tissue.” The most common way of getting the disease is through bacteria entering the body through “a break in the skin, like a cut, scrape, burn, insect bite, or puncture wound.”

Sounds terrifying, but the CDC also states that “most people” who get the disease have other health problems that have lowered their body’s ability to fight infection. There are about 650-800 US cases of necrotizing fasciitis each year.

WCVB reports that Leonard told WJAR-TV he hopes to be fitted with a prosthetic so he can return to work.