Insofar as really, really bad diseases/injuries/parasites I never ever want to get, flesh-eating bacteria is definitely at the top of the list. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, and with good reason: Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia college student who contracted Aeromonas hydrophila after falling and wounding her leg on a homemade zip line during a kayaking trip, has already lost one leg to the lethal bacteria and is expected to lose more limbs, according to her doctors.
Poor girl. One minute you're kayaking with your buddies, the next you're going into cardiac arrest on the operating table. Good lord, what the hell is Aeromonas hydrophila and how do we stay as far away from it as possible?!
Well, first of all, the bacteria is usually found in fresh water, particularly brackish or muddy water (like the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia, apparently). But don't put your kayak up on Craigslist just yet ...
Experts say Copeland's case is extremely rare. Most people who encounter Aeromonas hydrophila end up with nothing more than a minor skin infection or stomach bug. But the huge gash (which took nearly two dozen staples to close) created a "perfect storm" of sorts, allowing the "high numbers" of the bacteria to reach deep skin tissue.
The resulting condition goes from bad to worse, quickly -- Copeland went back to the hospital several times complaining of pain after getting her wound stapled up; it wasn't until the fourth visit that doctors figured out what was going on. But by then, the infection (necrotizing fasciitis) had spread to her hip and thigh.
So let's say, god forbid, you're swimming or fishing or skipping rocks in a pond this summer and somehow you end up cutting your foot or hand or whatever else.
The main symptom to watch for? Serious pain that doesn't let up -- pain that's out of proportion to the size of the injury. Other symptoms include fever and chills, swelling at the site of the wound, diarrhea and/or vomiting, and a sunburn-like rash.
Of course, prevention is key (along with early detection). Always be sure to clean cuts or scrapes of any kind, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a clean bandage.
Had you ever heard of Aeromonas hydrophila before this accident?
Image via ABC