50-year-old Carol Martin from Indianapolis died two months after contracting necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria while vacationing in Florida.
Her husband, Richard Martin, said that she would have been saved if the doctors diagnosed her condition correctly.
Misdiagnosed Flesh-Eating Infection
Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly, killing the soft tissues of the body. Although the condition is deadly in a short period of time, accurate diagnosis, as well as prompt treatment with antibiotics and surgery can stop the infection and save the life of the patient.
In 2017, a Florida man made headlines after he survived flesh-eating bacteria infection without losing a limb. He went to the hospital complaining about blisters on his foot only to learn he was infected with flesh-eating bacteria. Doctors rushed to treat him with antibiotics and removed the infected parts of his flesh, which eventually saved his life.
Carol was not as lucky. She went to the doctor twice but her symptoms were not right away identified as those of flesh-eating infection. Doctors realized she had necrotizing fasciitis the third time she went back to the hospital when her condition has become worse.
"They sent her home with more antibiotics and a heating pad and it got worse," said Richard. "In the emergency room they said 'we are sorry but she has a flesh-eating bacteria, we have to rush her to surgery right now."
Symptoms Can Be Confusing
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with flesh-eating disease start to have symptoms within just a few hours after getting injured. Unfortunately, these symptoms appear to be like any other illness or injury.
"Some people may complain of pain or soreness, similar to that of a "pulled muscle." The skin may be warm with red or purplish areas of swelling that spread rapidly," the CDC said, adding that others get blisters, ulcers and black spots on the skin.
"Patients often describe their pain as severe and hurting much more than they would expect based on how the wound looks."
The confusing symptoms may cause the patient to delay seeking medical attention thinking it is just another illness. The patient will eventually experience fatigue, vomiting, chills, and fever, which worsen over time.
Since the bacteria enter into the body through breaks in the skin, the CDC advises those who have these symptoms after a wound to see the doctor as soon as possible.