Flesh-eating bacteria claims part of Brenham man's leg

Man's condition improving

By Jennifer Bauer - Reporter

HOUSTON - A Brenham man is recovering in a Houston hospital after losing his leg to flesh-eating bacteria.

According to family friends, Keith Korth, 44, spent the weekend fishing in Port O'Connor at an annual tournament. Once he returned, he started having pain in his leg, went to a local hospital and was eventually flown to Methodist Hospital in Houston, where his leg had to be amputated.

Local 2 has learned there have been reported cases of flesh-eating bacteria, also known as necrotizing fasciitis, at that same locations in years past.

"She said it was his left leg, about 2 inches above his knee," said Louis Schwarze, a long-time family friend and neighbor. 

Schwarze said he's been in contact with the Korth family and spoke to the victim's daughter.

"She said he's doing a lot better and he's waking up, talking and asking questions," Schwarze said.

"We were out and about when we got the call," said Maxine Schwarze. "He loves to fish and that was just one of those crazy things that happens."

Flesh-eating bacteria is known as Necrotizing Fasciitis to the medical community, and although it's common in the environment, infections are rare.  Fewer than 3 out of every 100,000 people will ever get it, but 50 percent of those cases are fatal.

"I've seen patients where, you know, they're on a fishing trip, they go to sleep and they woke up in the morning and all of their leg is red. It's very fast. This bacteria can go about an inch an hour, " Dr. Luis Ostrosky with UTHealth / Memorial Hermann said.

Dr. Ostrosky is not treating Korth but said the bacteria can thrive during our warm summer months.

"This bacteria are present everywhere and 99 percent of the people are not going to get flesh-eating bacteria. It's rare cases where it happens, but when it's happening you need to be fast," Dr. Ostrosky said.

According to Dr. Ostrosky, the bacteria can creep in, even in wounds as small as a pinprick or paper cut.

"Any cut needs to be addressed. You need to clean it with soap and water. An antiseptic ointment is best to use as well. You need to watch it. If it gets red, if you start seeing blisters, if you have any fever, you need to go to the hospital right away," Dr. Ostrosky said.

Other symptoms include intense pain, redness or heat at the site.

According to experts, cases of flesh-eating bacteria are very rare.

The CDC has reported less than 1,000 cases a year.

Doctors are not releasing information on Korth's condition, but his friends say his condition appeared to be improving.

"It sounds like he's doing better and hopefully they've stopped the bacteria," Maxine Schwarze said.

Copyright 2012 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.