A 32-year old Florida man recently made headlines for surviving without loss of limbs from a deadly flesh-eating bacteria infection, which he contracted while hiking Mount Garfield in New Hampshire.
The man, Wayne Atkins, reportedly went to the hospital in Miami complaining about blisters on his foot, only to discover that he was infected with flesh-eating bacteria. His health rapidly declined from there.
The Road To Infection And Recovery
According to Atkins and his family, the 32-year old was visiting New England to attend a family member's wedding. Atkins decided to take the time out to enjoy nature and hike Mount Garfield while he was there. After the hike, he noticed blisters on his foot but ignored it since many people get blisters after trekking.
He went back to Miami thinking nothing of the blisters until it began to hurt a little more than it should have. When he finally went to the hospital to get it checked, the doctors discovered that Atkins was actually infected with flesh-eating bacteria caused by Group A Streptococcus.
"He played some soccer and really noticed some blisters and an area of redness on his shin. By the time I got to Miami that night, he was already in liver failure, kidney failure, he went into this respiratory condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome where your lungs just fill with fluid," Atkins' mother Karen Gaudreau recalls.
Atkins spent two weeks in a coma as doctors rushed to give him antibiotics and cut away infected parts of his flesh to save his life. He is not cleared to leave the hospital yet but is scheduled to receive skin grafts and more rehabilitation.
Atkins did not lose any of his limbs despite the life-threatening disease but Mount Garfield, and even New Hampshire, received some bad reputation for being the source of the flesh-eating bacteria.
Don't Blame The Mountain
Some were quick to point out that the deadly bacteria came from the White Mountains but health experts say this may not be the case since Group A Strep is very common and could be found anywhere.
Group A Strep is the exact same bacteria that can lead to Streptococcal pharyngitis, more commonly known as strep throat.
"To say that someone acquired it in New Hampshire and we have flesh-eating bacteria isn't exactly accurate ... He could have had it in his own throat. He could have gotten it from other people before he came to New Hampshire to hike," New Hampshire Division of Public Health chief of the Infectious Disease Bureau Beth Daly explains.
Daly didn't say that Atkins was to blame either but said that his situation is a wake-up call for everyone to ensure that they maintain good hygiene, especially when wounds of any type such as cuts, bug bites, or blisters are involved. After all, Group A Strep is really common but those with strong immune systems and practice good hygiene are generally able to fight off the infection.
Perhaps Atkins' decision to ignore the "typical" blisters after a hike is what led to the infection or the blisters allowed a recently acquired common bacterium to enter his body.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that symptoms from necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria begin and progress rapidly, but is confusing because it may seem like symptoms from another condition like a pulled muscle.
"People with necrotizing fasciitis often start having symptoms within a few hours after an injury," the CDC writes.
CDC also urged everyone to ensure proper care for any wound until it is completely healed to prevent worse infections, and to immediately consult a doctor if fever, chills, fatigue, or vomiting occurs after getting a wound.