On Jan. 11, Lipinski, a mother of three, visited the hospital with flu-like symptoms and a sharp pain under her arm. She was diagnosed with the flu and received treatment for the viral infection.
Two days after her flu diagnosis, Lipinski had to be rushed to the hospital as the pain under her arm became worse and almost unbearable.
It was then that the doctors at a local trauma center discovered that Lipinski contracted a bacterial infection that developed into necrotizing fasciitis. She had to undergo immediate surgery to remove 30 percent of her body tissue which was infected with the bacteria.
Lipinski's flu misdiagnosis prevented her from seeking immediate treatment.
"Due to the time that had lapsed caused by the misdiagnoses, the bacterial infection developed into a highly aggressive form of necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria), a very rare and destructive disease with a mortality rate of 30% and higher," according to a GoFundMe page to raise hospitalization fund for Lipinski.
What Is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
Necrotizing fasciitis is a type of infection that the can destroy skin tissue, muscles and subcutaneous tissues beneath the skin.
Several types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis including group A Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Clostridium, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis can be deadly as the infection spreads quickly, in some cases, just within hours after an injury.
Injury, cuts, and break in the skin are the most common ways that the necrotizing fasciitis bacteria can enter the body.
Antibacterial medication and surgery to remove dead body tissue are the most effective ways to treat necrotizing fasciitis.
The disease has flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, vomiting, ulcers, blisters black spots, and fatigue. These symptoms are very similar to the flu which could have the reason for Lipinski's initial misdiagnosis.
Patients infected with the bacteria often experience extreme pain and swelling in their wound. The wounded skin may also become red or purple in color.
An earlier study indicated that the rare disease has a mortality rate of 27 percent. Among the major contributing factors to the mortality of patients infected with the bacteria include misdiagnosis, old age, and diabetes.
Since 2010, there have been 600 to 1,200 reported cases of necrotizing fasciitis in the United States.
Flu Weakens The Immune System
Influenza itself does not cause necrotizing fasciitis but flu weakens the immune system, making a person more susceptible to infection.
"The flu doesn't cause necrotizing fasciitis," says Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency physician at Banner Health."...You're many, many thousands of times more likely to get the flu this year than necrotizing fasciitis once in your lifetime."
Lipinski remains hospitalized and is expected to require a long recovery.
"Christin faces a very long road to recovery ahead with numerous skin graft surgeries, reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy," says her GoFundMe Page that aims to raise $20,000.