Entries in Flesh-Eating (13)


Couple Infected with Flesh-Eating Botflies

A female adult human bot fly is seen in this undated photo. (J. Eibl, U.S. Department of Agriculture)(NEW YORK) -- An Australian couple got more than they bargained for from their Bolivian vacation when they became infected with human botfly larvae that grow under the skin and feast on flesh, according to a report on the website

Bryan Williams and girlfriend Ally Vagg, both 28 and from Sydney, at first thought the sores they saw littering their bodies were infected mosquito bites -- until they noticed the wounds were moving.

They sought care in Bolivia and learned they had human botfly larvae growing inside them.

Like something out of a frightening sci-fi movie, the human botfly is a parasite native to Central and South America whose eggs are transported to prospective hosts by dozens of species of mosquitoes, flies and ticks.

Female botflies capture the mosquito, fly or tick, attach up to 50 eggs to it, and then release the insect to find a host to deposit the eggs. The eggs then sense the body heat of the host, hatch and attempt to crawl into the feeding site of the mosquito.

After an incubation period of six to eight weeks during which the botfly feeds under the host's skin, the botfly leaves abruptly and matures into an adult.

While touring the Amazon Basin, Williams and Vagg said they'd been bitten numerous times by mosquitoes, the likely source of the botfly invasion of their bodies.

Though botfly infections are rare, travelers to Central and South America should take the necessary steps -- which include wearing long sleeves and applying ample bug repellant -- to avoid excessive mosquito bites,

"They're high on the ick factor," Grayson Brown, director of the Public Health Entomology Laboratory at the University of Kentucky told ABC News. "Botflies are not an epidemic. But there are always a couple dozen cases when travelers return to the United States every year."

Extracting the larvae from the body can be somewhat painful and requires tremendous care to ensure that they're removed in one piece. A quick search on YouTube reveals numerous videos of people attempting to remove these unwelcome companions.

"In areas native to the botfly, the percentage is relatively low of people who come into contact with them, maybe one in 500," said Brown.

As for the Australian couple, they will remain in Bolivia until the infection clears, which could take up to a month.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Michigan Woman Has Flesh-Eating Bacteria Aimee Copeland Survived

WXYZ-TV/ABC News(DETROIT) -- A Detroit-area woman is fighting for her life against the same, rare flesh-eating disease that nearly killed Georgia graduate student Aimee Copeland.

Crystal Spencer, 33, is in serious condition at Detroit Receiving Hospital after she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which is more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria syndrome.  The quickly progressing infection is known for its sudden onset and the speed with which it spreads across layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues.

Spencer's husband, Jeff, told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV that his wife, who had been hospitalized since June 30, has already had a part of her midsection removed, which he says amounts to the size of a small watermelon.

"They only give her a 20 to 30 percent chance to pull out of this, not even to make this," Jeff Spencer said.  "The surgeon keeps going in and cleaning it and cleaning it.  But they're saying it could go either way."

Crystal Spencer entered the hospital days before Copeland was released from a hospital more than 700 miles away after she fought an uphill battle against the same infection.

After 49 days, Copeland on Monday left an Atlanta-area hospital, where she had her left leg, right foot and both hands amputated in order to save her life.

The 24-year-old contracted the virus from hydrophila bacteria, which is typically found in warm waters, when she fell from a broken zipline along the Tallapoosa River near the south end of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia on May 1.

Jeff Spencer told WXYZ that he believes his wife contracted the infection while she was at a different Detroit hospital, where she recently had surgery to remove an abscess from her leg.  Crystal Spencer suffers from type 2 diabetes.

"They're saying it's a long road but I'm trying to think for the better that hopefully she does make it," he said.  "She's alert but she's not to the point where she can talk or really do much."

"It's just hard at night to do this," he added.  "I'm keeping my hopes up, I'm praying and have family do what they can."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aimee Copeland Helped Design Home Addition

ABC News(SNELLVILLE, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to a flesh-eating disease, helped design the addition to her childhood home known as "Aimee's wing."

Copeland, 24, is living at an inpatient rehabilitation center, where she will learn to use an electrical wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs.  But in as few as six weeks, she will move into the two-story wing carefully crafted to aid her recovery.

"She designed it with my help," said architect Rob Ponder, a family friend who volunteered his services.  "She was the one saying, 'This is where I want my bedroom; this is where I want my study.'"

The wing off the back of the Copeland home in Snellville, Ga., will also house a fitness room, a sunroom and an elevator.

"Six years from now, when all the excitement has died down, she's going to be living in this house," Ponder said.  "We want it to be functional, durable, and exactly the way she wants."

Ponder visited Copeland twice at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, where the young woman spent 59 days recovering from a deadly infection after a zipline injury.  And despite the lingering pain of amputations and skin grafts, Copeland was excited to weigh in on her new wing.

"She told me all the things she wanted," Ponder said, describing the fitness room where Copeland can build her strength and the quiet study where she can finish her master's thesis.  "Ultimately, we're trying to give her as much independence as we can as early as possible."

Ponder said Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, reached out to him for help with the design.

"He had a bunch of ideas about where things should go," Ponder said.  "But I said, 'Wait a minute.  Is that what Aimee wants?  She's 24, and might not want her bedroom right next to the kitchen."

Ponder said Aimee Copeland was glad to have a say in the design of her new digs.

"She was happy, and so excited about getting to the next step," Ponder said, recalling Copeland's three-word response to the news she would lose her hands: "Let's do this".  "She's the same about her house."

Volunteer workers have already demolished a deck to make room for the wing.  And with permits finally in hand, the work is set to start on Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aimee Copeland Leaves Hospital After Battling Flesh-Eating Disease

Tom Adkins/Capital City EMS(ATLANTA) -- Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia grad student who lost her left leg, right foot and hands to flesh-eating disease, has left the Augusta hospital that saved her life.

It's been two months since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting the deadly infection that landed her in critical condition.

Copeland is en route to a private rehabilitation facility, where she will learn to use a wheelchair and, eventually, prosthetic limbs. Her family, who lives in Snellville, Ga., has decided to keep the location of the facility private.

The next phase will involve months of intense rehab, according to Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, chief medical officer of MossRehab in Philadelphia.

"The first step is to provide patients with self independence," said Esquenazi, who is also the chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at MossRehab Regional Amputee Center. "Right now, someone has to feed her, help her with hygiene, turn on lights, open doors. ... But some simple devices can help her do these things herself."

Copeland will learn to use a wheelchair until her body is strong enough to tolerate prosthetics.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Flesh-Eating Disease Victim Aimee Copeland Goes Outside for First Time

ABC News(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from a flesh-eating disease, went outside for the first time in 49 days, her father wrote on his blog Monday.  

After several surgeries to remove her limbs, the 24-year-old's condition was upgraded from "serious" to "good."

For a patient's status to change from serious to good, vital signs must be stable and within normal limits.  The patient is conscious and comfortable, and indicators are excellent, the hospital reported.

Copeland, who had been working on a thesis about nature therapy, was wheeled outside of Doctors Hospital in Augusta on Saturday, where her parents snapped a photo of her.

"Aimee has a beauty in this photograph that I think goes beyond words," said Andy Copeland, her father.  "It's a beauty of survival, of resilience."

Copeland has been keeping a blog about his daughter's fight, and says the sun has returned to her life.

"The look on Aimee's face was just incredible," said Copeland.  "She could smell the pine trees and feel the breeze through her hair and just the sun on her skin.  That was a remarkable change for her just to see how she glowed when we took her outside."

Copeland's father tells ABC News that she might be able to leave the hospital in a week, but she still has much recovery ahead of her.  It will not be the life she imagined, he says, but he is in awe of her sunny outlook.

"She said she likes that fact that she has a challenge and she feels the challenge will create a tremendous opportunity not just for her to learn more and to gain more from this, but to learn more that she can use to help others along the way," says Copeland.

Aimee Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zipline near the Little Tallapoosa River on May 1.  The wound became infected by a common bacteria that spread in her body and claimed her left leg, right foot and hands.  Doctors also removed part of her torso.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aimee Copeland Pleads for Painkillers, Feels Like 'Patchwork Quilt'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student recovering from flesh-eating disease, is pleading for painkillers after surgery to replace swaths of bacteria-ravaged skin and muscle, her father said.

Copeland, 24, was hesitant to take morphine, telling her father she felt like "a traitor to her convictions."  But her preferred method of pain management, meditation, proved no match for the sting of skin grafts and muscle flaps to close a gaping wound on her abdomen and groin.

"Aimee is now taking pain medication in as liberal a dose as can be prescribed," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, wrote in a blog post.  "If she even dared to refuse taking it, which she wouldn't, then the doctors would most certainly administer it in an IV drip."

It's been nearly seven weeks since Copeland cut open her calf in a fall from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River, inviting a flesh-eating infection that claimed her left leg, right foot and hands.  Doctors also removed part of her torso, leaving a wound that was dutifully cleaned and covered with sterile bandages in advance of reconstructive surgery on Friday.

"During the most recent skin graft, her surgeons were forced to take muscle from Aimee's abdomen to create a flap over the iliac artery in her groin," Andy Copeland wrote.  "She says that she feels like a patchwork quilt, because her body is a collection of skin grafts and bandages."

A skin graft transplants a thin patch of skin surgically shaved from elsewhere on the body onto a wound.

"We can get sheets between 10 and 12 thousandths of an inch thick," said Dr. J. Blair Summitt, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.  "Within two or three days, tiny little blood vessels start to grow into the graft.  It's a fairly straightforward procedure."

Straightforward, but not painless.  Summitt said narcotic painkillers like morphine and Fentanyl help patients power through the painful reconstructive surgery.  But Andy Copeland said no drug is powerful enough to relieve his daughter's pain.

"The allowable doses of Morphine, Fentanyl and Lyrica are often inadequate to deal with the pain that Aimee is now experiencing," he wrote.  "Please believe me when I say that Aimee's refusal to use pain medication has ceased following her most recent surgery.  She is now requesting it ahead of schedule."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia Flesh-Eating Disease Victim Speaks

ABC News(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Aimee Copeland, 24, has spoken her first words since she was hospitalized in an Augusta, Ga.,  hospital on May 4 after contracting a flesh-eating disease, according to her father’s Facebook page.

Andy Copeland, who did not reveal the exact words Aimee Copeland said, on Sunday updated his page with the message: “Our baby can talk. Details will follow later today.”

On Monday, Andy Copeland further described the conversations he had with his daughter Sunday evening on a blog he set up to chronicle his daughter’s recovery.

“Aimee was expressive and she clearly elucidated her thoughts,” he wrote.  “Her long term memory was intact. … We discussed ideas of how to utilize wilderness therapy/eco-psychology for amputees. We talked about her current physical condition. We smiled and at times we said nothing.”

Andy Copeland wrote in the blog that later in the evening his daughter began to get tired and simply mouthed words, but he said that she remained in good spirits.

By Monday afternoon, more than 200 well-wishers had posted comments on Andy Copeland’s Sunday update in which he proclaimed it to be “Aimee Day,” in honor of his daughter recovering her ability to speak.  A more recent update had garnered more than 130 messages of encouragement.

Aimee Copeland’s struggle with the flesh-eating disease, known broadly as necrotizing fasciitis, began on May 1, when an accident on a homemade zip line slashed open her calf and a common waterborne bacterium infected the wound.  She lost the injured leg and doctors removed her other limbs to prevent the spread of infection to her blood, her father has said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Georgia Woman Who Lost Limbs to Flesh-Eating Disease Can Now Sit Up

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For the first time since a rare flesh-eating infection took over her body and resulted in her hands and feet being amputated, Georgia student Aimee Copeland is breathing on her own and able to sit up for hours at a time, her father said.

Being able to sit up was "a big victory because it's something that wasn't anticipated, the doctors didn't order it.  She requested it," Andy Copeland told ABC's Good Morning America in an interview Thursday night.  "In my mind, it says a lot about the strength of her spirit.  I think she's one step back to being her normal self."

The 24-year-old remains in intensive care at an Augusta hospital, still battling the effects of the May 1 zip-line accident that slashed open her calf.  A common water-borne bacterium infected the wound.

Copeland lost the injured leg.  Doctors removed her hands to prevent the spread of infection to her blood, her father has said.

Singer-songwriter Corey Durkin had been following Andy Copeland's Facebook posts, and he visited Aimee Copeland in the hospital on Tuesday.  Durkin, who wrote a song for Aimee Copeland in which he called her "a Southern belle who fell down a wishing well," sat by her hospital bed and sang his songs.

She smiled, and mouthed words of thanks to the singer.

"She said she thanked him from the bottom of her heart and she really, really appreciated it, and I told her, 'Aimee, I'm going to give Corey something for you and I gave him a big hug and she smiled and said 'that really made her day,'" her father added.

Copeland said his daughter has shown remarkable fortitude and determination in the face of her devastating situation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Another Case of Flesh-Eating Disease

ABC News(ATLANTA) -- A Georgia landscaper is battling a flesh-eating disease at the same Augusta hospital as Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old student who lost her leg to the deadly infection.

Robert Vaughn, 32, contracted necrotizing fasciitis after cutting his thigh while trimming weeds May 4, three days after Aimee Copeland sliced open her calf falling from a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River.

Vaughn went to a hospital in Cartersville, Ga., where doctors gave him a prescription for antibiotics and recommended he stay for observation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But Vaughn, "being the man that I am," went home and watched the painful gash swell from the size of a peanut to that of a grapefruit.

He returned the next day and underwent emergency surgery.

"It was that bad," he told the newspaper, describing how doctors removed some of the infected flesh and sent him to Doctor's Hospital in Augusta for more surgeries. "They told me I was close to death."

It took five surgeries to remove more than two pounds of tissue infected by bacteria that burrowed deep into Vaughn's wound.

"The bacteria produce enzymes that can dissolve muscle deep down," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "And because it's so deep, it can be a sneaky infection that's not immediately appreciated by the patient."

The symptom that should ring alarm bells, according to Schaffner, is "serious, unremitting pain."

"An otherwise healthy individual with a seemingly superficial injury who has severe pain should have a much more thorough evaluation," he said.

Indeed Vaughn said the pain was so bad he "could hardly move," the AJC reported.

Vaughn is expected to undergo skin grafts to replace some of the tissue removed during surgery.

"They have to rebuild my groin area," he told the AJC. "But I'm feeling much better now."

Vaughn was at one point next door to Copeland, who is slowly recovering from the infection that claimed her left leg and threatens to take her right foot and both hands. The two cases occurred 54 miles apart.

Copeland's infection was the work of Aeromonas hydrophila, a bacteria that thrives in warm climates and fresh water like the river where Copeland was zip lining with friends. The bacteria that caused Vaughn's infection is unclear.

Vaughn is the third person to contract flesh-eating disease in Georgia in three weeks. Lana Kuykendall, 36, developed necrotizing fasciitis May 11 after giving birth to twins at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. She is reportedly in critical but stable condition.

Doctors say the cases are rare and unrelated.

To reduce the risk of necrotizing fasciitis, all wounds big and small should be immediately cleaned, treated with antimicrobial ointment and covered with sterile bandages, according to the National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girl with Flesh-Eating Disease Faces 'Horror,' 'Depression'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student who lost her leg to a rare flesh-eating infection after a zip line injury, is smiling and laughing, according to her family.  But the 24-year-old can't remember the events that landed her in critical condition, and faces an extreme psychological adjustment when she does.

"She will learn about the loss of her beautiful leg.  She will discover that her hands lack the dexterity and tactile response she has known all her life," Copeland's father, Andy Copeland, wrote in a blog dedicated to his daughter's recovery.  "How would you respond in such a situation?  I think that moment will be one of horror and depression for Aimee."

Medications designed to keep Copeland calm have blurred her memory of the May 1 accident that cut open her calf, inviting the life-threatening infection that claimed her leg and threatens to take her fingers.  But despite her remarkable physical recovery, the psychological wounds of realizing she lost a limb could be harder to heal.

"I want to ask everyone to pray for my child's psyche and for her self-awareness to not be focused on her physical being," Andy Copeland wrote.  "Please pray that she will have understanding."

The ventilator pumping oxygen into her lungs makes it impossible to speak.  But soon, the breathing tube will be removed, allowing Copeland to ask questions.

"As wonderful as that moment will be for us, it will also be the time that Aimee receives all the answers about her condition," Andy Copeland wrote.

For Copeland, an active and ambitious graduate student, news of the amputation could trigger grief rivaling the physical pain of the infection, according to Dr. Harsh Trivedi, chief-of-staff at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

"For someone who was in good health to be in this situation all of a sudden, that's a pretty substantial loss," he said, alluding to the physical loss of a limb as well as the loss of opportunities in life.  "There's almost a grieving process that needs to occur, and that can lead to feelings of depression over how different life is now compared to literally two weeks ago."

Remembering details from the zip line accident also raises the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition marked by haunting flashbacks, Trivedi said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio