MADISON — A New Britain man reportedly needed his leg amputated after contracting flesh-eating bacteria at Hammonasset Beach State Park, and an infectious disease specialist said the state is seeing more cases of the potentially deadly infection.

Dr. Zane Saul, chief of infectious diseases at Bridgeport Hospital, part of the Yale New Haven Health System, said physicians in Connecticut have seen more cases of flesh-eating bacteria, known as necrotizing fasciitis, this year than they have seen in the last three years combined. That adds up to four to five cases having been reported so far this year, he said.

“We’re seeing more and more of these bacteria as the water is warmer,” he said. “And with with global temperatures rising we’re seeing more of these cases. We shouldn’t scare people so that they’re afraid to go swimming, but they should take care of open wounds.”

Saul said, “It’s scary, but it shouldn’t spoil the rest of peoples summers.”

“The take home is to identify rapidly progressing wounds and take care when swimming if you have a weakened immune system,” Saul said.

Bruce Kagan, 68, went swimming at Hammonasset in Madison in late June and a few days later had to be admitted to the Hospital of Central Connecticut, according to a report by NBC CT.

Kagan could not be reached Thursday, but a hospital spokesperson confirmed to Hearst Connecticut Media that he was treated and since released.

Kagan believes he contracted the flesh-eating bacteria through a cut on his leg, he said. Doctors did several surgeries to stop the spread of the bacteria but ultimately had to amputate his leg above the knee to save his life, according to NBC CT.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as antibiotics can’t always reach all of the infected areas bacteria has “killed too much tissue and reduced blood flow,” doctors must remove the dead tissue. “It is not unusual for someone with necrotizing fasciitis to end up needing multiple surgeries.” according to the CDC.

Susan Whalen, deputy commissioner of environmental conservation with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Thursday the agency had no information about how or where Kagan contracted a bacterial infection.

“For our swimming beaches, DEEP uses nationally accepted testing protocols which provide an indicator of water quality — and Hammonasset, because of its tidal flushing cycle, typically has very high water quality,” Whalen said.

“In the last 15 years we have had only one or two instances of poor water quality that resulted in a beach closure,” said Whalen. “With thousands of types of bacteria in the environment, we do not test for specific types as they are usually present in the environment in very small amounts.”

A report released last week by Save the Sound found, on average, Long Island Sound beaches met safe-swimming criteria 93.3 percent of the time between 2016-18. The report, which examined 204 swimming beaches in Connecticut and New York, gave grades to each beach and the Surf Club Beach is Madison, which is about 3 miles from Hammonasset, was ranked No. 1.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health said Kagan’s case wasn’t reported to them so they had no further information.

Group A Streptococcus bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, according to the DPH. The department participates in surveying for the bacteria, so the pathogen and the invasive infections can be reported to the DPH, though not every infection it causes is necrotizing fasciitis.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention estimates there are between 500-700 cases of necrotizing fasciitis, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Saul said the infection isn’t subtle in any way, so if someone contracts it, there would be no question that they need medical attention.

“The infection just takes over,” he said. “It rapidly travels and the patient becomes very ill.”

Saul said someone who has contracted a flesh-eating bacteria will feel pain that is out of proportion of what the wound appears to be and within hours, it will severely worsen.

To treat it, aggressive antibiotics and high level amputations are common, Saul said, since doctors need to surgically remove the dead flesh.

Most cases of necrotizing fasciitis occur randomly, according to the DPH website, and it’s very rare for someone with the infection to spread it to other people.

Although rare, over the past decade people with compromised immune systems and liver disease making them at greater risk for contracting the disease, Dr. Joseph Glassford Garner told NBC CT.

The bacteria can enter through open wounds so the elderly, people suffering from cancer, diabetes or those with weakened immune systems would need to take definite precautions, Saul said.

Connecticut Media Group