Aimee Copeland: Georgia Woman With Flesh Eating Bacteria Disease In Critical Condition

on May 21 2012 9:00 AM

(Reuters) - A Georgia woman fighting a flesh-eating bacterial infection was in critical condition at Augusta Hospital on Saturday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether Aimee Copeland had undergone surgery to remove her hands and right foot, amputations that Copeland's father had said were pending on Friday. Surgeons had amputated the 24-year-old's left leg at the hip.

All I can say is Aimee is still in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Barclay Bishop said.

Prayers and messages of support have poured in for Copeland on a Facebook page where her father, Andy Copeland, has chronicled her struggle.

There were no updates on the site on Saturday. The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper said the family had been overwhelmed by public interest and had asked for privacy.

Copeland suffered a huge gash in her leg in a zip-line accident and fell into the Little Tallapoosa River near Carrollton, Georgia, on May 1. She developed necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that destroys soft tissue.

Necrotizing or flesh-eating soft-tissue infections are a broad category of infections with many causes, although Group A Streptococcus is the most common culprit. Doctors blamed Copeland's infection on the Aeromonos hydrophila bacteria, which are found in fresh or brackish water and may have entered the wound when she fell into the river.

With media attention focused on Copeland's struggle, additional cases of necrotizing fasciitis have been reported in Georgia and South Carolina. Health experts say the disease is not communicable.

A 1996 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 500 to 1,500 cases of necrotizing fasciitis annually in the United States, with about 20 percent of them fatal. The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation says on its website that the case number estimate is probably low.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)

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