Georgia Woman Battling Flesh-eating Bacteria Speaks

By: Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer
By: Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer

Georgia Woman Battling Flesh-eating Bacteria Speaks

Augusta, GA -- May 28, 2012 --

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- The father of a young Georgia woman battling a flesh-eating disease says his daughter has spoken for the first time since she was taken to an Augusta hospital weeks ago for treatment.

Andy Copeland said in an interview with The Associated Press Monday that he was in church Sunday morning and missed his daughter Aimee's first words. But his other daughter, Paige, told him Aimee said, "Hello. Whoa. Wow, my mind is blown."

Writing on his Facebook page, Andy Copeland said: "Our baby can talk."

Twenty-four-year-old Aimee Copeland developed necrotizing fasciitis after cutting her leg in a May 1 fall from a homemade zip line over a west Georgia river. Her left leg, other foot and both hands have been amputated.

She began breathing on her own last week.

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Flesh-eating Germ Rare, Especially for the Healthy

Atlanta, GA (AP) - Aimee Copeland, a Georgia grad student, is fighting for her life because of the flesh-eating bacteria that infected her after she gashed her leg in a river two weeks ago. One of her legs was amputated and her fingers will be too, her father says, because of the spreading infection.

She has a rare condition, called necrotizing fasciitis, in which marauding bacteria run rampant through tissue. Affected areas sometimes have to be surgically removed to save the patient's life.

HOW OFTEN DO PEOPLE GET THESE INFECTIONS?

The government estimates roughly 750 flesh-eating bacteria cases occur each year, usually caused by a type of strep germ.

However, Aimee Copeland's infection was caused by another type of bacteria, Aeromonas hydrophila. Those cases are even rarer. One expert knew of only a few reported over the past few decades.

DO MOST PEOPLE SURVIVE?

Yes, but about 1 in 5 people with the most common kind of flesh-eating strep bacteria die. There are few statistics on Aeromonas-caused cases like Copeland's.

HOW DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN?

The germs that can cause flesh-eating disease are common in warm and brackish waters like ponds, lakes and streams. They are not a threat to most people. An infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner, said: "I could dive in that same stream, in the same place, and if I don't injure myself I'm going to be perfectly fine. It's not going to get on the surface of my skin and burrow in. It doesn't do that."

But a cut or gash - especially a deep one - opens the door for flesh-eating bacteria.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO AVOID SUCH AN INFECTION?

Prompt and thorough medical care should stop the infection before it spreads. A wound can look clean, but if it's sutured or stapled up too soon it can create the kind of oxygen-deprived environment that helps these bacteria multiply and spread internally. Once established, these rare infections can be tricky to diagnose and treat.

Also, Aeromonas is resistant to some common antibiotics that work against strep and other infections, so it's important that doctors use the best medicines.

ARE SOME PEOPLE MORE AT RISK?

Yes, people with weakened immune systems are. Copeland's family has not said whether she had some type of medical condition that could have made her more vulnerable and relatives could not be reached for comment Monday. Her doctors, meanwhile, have refused interviews.


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  • by Brian H Location: Kansas on Jun 6, 2012 at 05:11 PM
    Why did they save her? I am not trying to callious but ok they save her life she leaves the hspital in a few months with no leg no foot and NO HANDS! What is she going to do now? Sit in her parents house and watch TV the rest of her life? She cant take care of herself she is now alive but with no life. I feel sorry for her but her parents should have thought about the ramifications of saving her life at the cost of living anything close to a normal one.
  • by Anonymous on May 29, 2012 at 01:47 PM
    Wouldn't it be good if someone could figure out how to use that bacteria to target cancer cells.
  • by Bolillo Location: Wakulla on May 29, 2012 at 04:57 AM
    We have flesh eating bacteria in Wakulla. Maybe some of them will gone after the election.
  • by Valerie on May 15, 2012 at 03:37 PM
    @ Jake--you are disgusting. I hope this never happens to you.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 28, 2012 at 06:15 PM in reply to Valerie
      You have no sense of humor.
  • by Black flag on May 15, 2012 at 03:15 PM
    A family member of mine contracted necrotizing fasciitis earlier this year as well after being cut while he was planting some sort of exotic plant. Sadly, he did not pull through.
  • by Al Location: Tallahassee on May 15, 2012 at 10:05 AM
    This girl went to my high school. It is very sad what is happening. The leg they already amputated was amputated above the hip, and they removed part of her abdomen/stomach. Over the weekend, they thought they were going to have to take her other entire foot (mid-calf) and both of her hands completely. Glad to see she is starting to recover. Even though it hasn't been officially reported everywhere, it is very likely that she was diagnosed with Lupus (autoimmune disorder) just a few months to a year ago. We are all pulling for you Aimee! To her family, Stay strong for her!
  • by Frank on May 15, 2012 at 09:49 AM
    I think this happened in South Florida a few years ago and it was found to be a very toxic poison. Anyone remember that?
  • by Jake on May 15, 2012 at 07:04 AM
    More likely, an alien implanted you with the virus to culture germs to save their planet. Did you have any dream of surgery after the hospital? They are everywhere you know.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 15, 2012 at 01:28 PM in reply to Jake
      Would someone at wctv please delete this comment. Thank you.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on May 28, 2012 at 06:15 PM in reply to
        Why would they delete it? It's actually kind of funny. Some people take things wayyyyy too seriously.
    • reply
      by Jake on May 28, 2012 at 06:09 PM in reply to Jake
      This comment was meant for "noypitoits" comment below. I posted in reply but it came on as a new comment. I did not mean to be insensitive to the young lady. Other than that KMA.
  • by Caring Location: Tallahassee on May 15, 2012 at 05:00 AM
    There are a lot of people praying for you Aimee. God Bless dear.
  • by Colt on May 15, 2012 at 04:33 AM
    Lord have mercy on this young lady!Heal her and comfort her Lord in Jesus name!!! Amen
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