How Common is Flesh Eating Bacteria?
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Aimee Copeland's first words since her left leg, right foot and both hands were amputated were "Hello, Whoa. My mind is blown." The young woman from Georgia developed necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria) after cutting her leg May 1. Lana Kuykendall of South Carolina is also battling the disease. The new mother is still in the hospital and has had 11 surgeries but no amputations. And Georgia's Bobby Vaughn is out of the hospital after six surgeries to remove two pounds of infected flesh.
The disease is making headlines but it's really not that rare. Doctors at CMC in Charlotte are currently treating one patient for flesh eating bacteria. They usually see the disease every three to six weeks. Treatment includes antibiotics and almost always, surgery.
"Often multiple surgeries are required to really get rid of the infection," says Carolinas HealthCare System Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Katie Passaretti. She says contracting the disease requires a "perfect storm" of sorts: the right type of bacteria and the right type of wound. "The best thing to do if you have any kind of cut or wound is to wash it out with a lot of water, the water gets rid of any kind of bacterial contamination you may have," she says.
You should see a doctor if you notice redness or swelling or pain out of proportion to what your wound looks like. Passaretti explains, "The wound doesn't look that bad, but say it's on your leg and you can barely walk."
A man in Pittsburgh is also being treated for possible flesh-eating bacteria after he cut himself during an outdoor activity. He has not had any surgeries yet. The bacteria can infect anyone but people who are diabetic or have weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.