Flesh Eating Bacteria Causes Fear

Almost everyone has heard the story of Aimee Copeland by now, the girl who contracted the “flesh eating bacteria”

Aeromonas hydrophila

Photo Credit Nathan Reading from Halesowen, UK

from a zip line accident.  However, it is unclear as to whether or not most people are aware of how rare it is for complications like this to occur.  Copeland ended up with necrotizing fasciitis not simply because of contact with the bacteria, but because she had an open wound that became infected with the bacteria.  This wound allowed the bacteria to enter her body and breed, killing tissue cells and destroying parts of her body.  The tragic events caused her to lose her leg, part of her abdomen, and there is anticipation that more amputations may be required before she is healed.  She also had to be intubated and on other forms of life support because of complications from the bacteria.

This headline has made itself a popular source of media attention throughout the United States, striking fear into people about the possibility of contracting something similar themselves.  However, despite the sadness of Copeland’s case, the possibility of this is not as likely as people may at first assume as these cases are often not deadly and are more likely to affect people with already weakened immune systems.

This bacterium naturally lives in warm, moist environments.  Ponds, lakes and even streams harbor this, along with other potential causes of infection.  Aeromonas hydrophila can come in contact with the skin without harming the host.  The reason this bacterium became such a problem for Copeland is because it entered her body via an injury.  More often than not, it is likely that another individual could be exposed to the same bacterium in the same place and not receive any harm.

The unfortunate circumstances surrounding this incident have raised awareness of various infections that can cause life-altering circumstances.  It is important for individuals to remember that there had to be an entrance for the bacteria so that it could cause such a devastating infection in the first place.  Copeland’s case reminds people that, if they have an injury and have been exposed to an area that may harbor bacteria or other uncleanliness, they should receive adequate medical attention promptly so that the area can be disinfected, inspected and properly cared for.  It is important to treat wounds, especially those that have occurred under unsanitary conditions, in order to avoid situations that may result in cases such as Copeland’s.

The devastation of this disease has left Copeland with a long road to recovery.  The media coverage has been high and the concern to individuals has been noted; however, not all of it is appropriate.  Individuals must be cautious and protect their health, but an understanding that this is not common is just as vitally important for people’s peace of mind.

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