Flesh-eating bacteria: it's getting a lot of attention these days, possibly because it's so gruesome. But less than 1,000 people are infected with it each year.
Alaskan resident Ruben Pereyra is one of those rare victims. He said he's grateful doctors recognized he was infected with it before it was too late.
"The clock was ticking. They said, 'This is very serious, life threatening. We have to send you out now,'" he said.
According to U.S. government reports, only about 750 people annually are infected with flesh eating bacteria, also known as necrotizing fasciitis. However, it kills about a third of them.
Ruben's wife, Ana, was horrified when she heard her husband's diagnosis.
"Flesh eating bacteria, my mind goes, 'Oh my God,'" she recalled.
For more on how you can help the Pereyra family, visit the facebook page, Alaska Man Trust.
Ruben's case was typical: a minor cut allowed the bacteria to get inside his body. Then it destroyed the nearby skin, tissue, and muscle. In some cases, the bacteria gets in the bloodstream and spreads throughout the entire body.
Doctors in Seattle administered I-V antibiotics to Ruben and cut-off many of the infected areas.
"They had to take away my muscles and tendons and they just scraped away as much as they had to get rid of the bacteria," he said.
Three of Ruben's fingers are at risk of becoming infected and might still have to be amputated.
Meanwhile, the infection has kept Ruben from working at his bus driving job, placing a financial hardship on his family.
When asked how they'll cope, Ana replied, "Probably have to sell whatever I got to try and survive."
Ruben's sister, Shari Jansen, is reaching out for help through a Facebook page, Alaska Man Trust.
"Most importantly they want prayers, well wishes, they would love to have some financial support," Jansen said.
Meanwhile, although it's already rare, you can take steps to protect yourself from this infection.
The most important thing is to thoroughly wash a wound immediately after receiving it. Wash it at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water and treat it with an antibiotic ointment, if possible. Make sure to keep it clean.
If the pain from the wound is more severe than the injury warrants, get to a doctor right away to prevent the bacteria from spreading.