University of Georgia student Aimee Copeland is in critical condition after contracting flesh-eating bacteria during a zip-lining accident in Georgia.
Copeland, a 24-year-old Master's Degree candidate, went on a kayaking trip with her friends in Carrollton, Georgia. She spontaneously decided to try out a homemade zip line over a river during the vacation.
But the line ended up breaking, leaving Copeland a large gash on her left calf. She received 22 staples and a prescription for painkillers for the injury last week.
She went to the hospital again on Thursday complaining of severe pain and was released with a prescription for antibiotics.
On Friday a doctor in the ER diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh eating bacteria. Lab tests confirmed she has the Aeromonas hydrophila strand, a bacteria generally found in warm climates and waters, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The disease had moved past the injured area to her hip and thigh.
The surgeons advised me that they wanted to try to save her leg, but at this point saving her life took precedence. They removed all of the infected tissue and advised that she would have limited, if any use of her leg, her father, Andy, wrote on the 'Believe and pray for a miracle to happen for Aimee Copeland' Facebook page.
Copeland was moved to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, where surgeons completed a high-hip amputation and removed tissue from her abdomen.
It's a miracle she made it past Friday night, said her father according to WSBTV.
Andy said the flesh eating bacteria had devoured her leg muscles and was attacking her system.
The bacteria produce enzymes that can dissolve muscle deep down, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to ABC News. And because it's so deep, it can be a sneaky infection that's not immediately appreciated by the patient.
Schaffner added that the two main treatment options were antibiotics to kill the bacteria and surgery. Any leftover bacteria can invade the blood stream.
You have to look at the wound and think, 'This is as far as the infection has gone; now I have to cut even further, he said according to ABC News.
Andy said his daughter has not fully recovered. She briefly lost her pulse Tuesday.
They actually were able to do CPR and resuscitate her very quickly, the girl's father said according to WSBTV.
Doctors said she might not survive through Tuesday night. Andy confirmed to the Atlanta Journal - Constitution that she made it through the night and has moved her arms and head. She is even beginning to breathe more on her own.
She's stable this morning, said Copeland according to the Atlanta Journal - Constitution. He said doctors were considering removing the tips of her fingers and the toes on her right leg due to poor circulation.
The source of the infection is unclear. Schaffner said that more often than not, sadly, it turns out to be the patient's own bacteria. He suspects it may have come from the river or Copeland's throat.
Copeland is completing her master's degree in Psychology at the University of West Georgia. Her father said she is a lover of people who wants to help people going through trauma.
What You Can Do To Prevent Getting 'Necrotizing Fasciitis'
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are close to 10, 000 - 15, 000 necrotizing fasciitis infections a year, with 2, 000 - 3, 000 cases ending in death, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Adults are mostly prone to infection, with 70 percent of cases involving a patient with a pre-existing condition, like diabetes, alcoholism/drug use, and other chronic diseases. Some children may develop necrotizing fasciitis as a complication of chickenpox.
According to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation, the bacteria enters the body through an opening in the skin, quite often a very minor opening, even as small as a paper cut, a staple puncture, or a pin prick. Bruised or generally weak skin is also susceptible to the infection.
Necrotizing fasciitis is mainly caused by Strep A bacteria. It can usually be treated with antibiotics, but every once in a while a strong variety of Strep A appears that can be life threatening, destroying muscles, skin, and tissue.
The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation has some tips to help prevent getting the fleshing eating bacteria infection:
- Wash hands frequently
- Use anti-bacterial soap regularly
- Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing and make sure to throw tissues away after use
- Avoid contact with people who have sore throats
- Properly dress even the smallest cuts by using an antibiotic ointment and sterile covering, which needs to be changed frequently
- If there is pain, swelling, pus, or redness near a wound with no obvious cause, seek medical attention immediately (via a Disease a Day)
- If you sprained or strained a muscle or joint and you develop a fever, chills, and sever pain, seek medical attention immediately (via a Disease a Day)
- People with liver disease should avoid eating seafood that could potentially be contaminated with Vibro vulnificus (via Medicine Net)
Though spontaneous, following these simple instructions can cut down your chances of getting the flesh eating bacteria.