After a freak accident, Aimee Copeland, a young college student, has lost her leg due to a flesh-eating bacteria–and she may now lose other body parts. It’s a scary thing to think about, but it’s possible this could happen to any of us.
Copeland was apparently kayaking with friends on May 1 along the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia when they decided to go zip-lining with a homemade rope. When it was Copeland’s turn, the line broke, and she fell into the water, cutting her leg.
The 24-year-old went to the hospital and had her wound closed with 22 staples. She was sent home with pain killers, but the pain didn’t stop. When she returned to the hospital, she received antibiotics. By the end of the week, she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis–a flesh-eating disease that dissolves muscle–and she had to have her left leg amuptated at the hip.
Doctors believe she came into contact with a common bacteria called Aeromonas hydrophila, which was likely in the water and then entered her body through the wound on her leg. Dr. Jay Varkey, an epidemiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that this bacteria is usually not life-threatening:
It requires a perfect storm of bad circumstances. And when it happens in those rare cases, it can be dramatic.
Dramatic, for sure. And scary.
How likely is this to happen to us?
Even though this flesh-eating bacteria is rare, one out of every four people who get it die from it. Anyone can get it, but your chances are higher if you have a weak immune system, chronic health problems (like diabetes or liver disease), have open cuts on your skin or have recently had the chickenpox or other viral infections.
You get necrotizing fasciitis when bacteria enters a wound, such as from an insect bite, a burn, or a cut. You can also get it from wounds that come in contact with ocean water, raw saltwater fish, or raw oysters. Also, any intestinal surgery site (even a c-section), tumors or other injuries in the intestinal area can leave you more susceptible.
This is a disease that comes on very quickly, so as always, if you notice any pain from a wound or related symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Meanwhile, Copeland is still in a life-threatening situation and may need to have her hands and right foot amputated as well.