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California Woman Almost Loses Part of Leg to 'Flesh-eating Bacteria': 'It Felt Like Someone Had Poured Acid on My Foot'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/19/2019 Kashmira Gander

a person sitting on a bed: A stock image of a person in hospital. A California woman was hospitalized after contracting a "flesh-eating" bacteria. © Getty A stock image of a person in hospital. A California woman was hospitalized after contracting a "flesh-eating" bacteria. A "flesh-eating" bacteria hospitalized a California woman for days and left her with an infection which exposed her bone.

On 4 July, University Heights resident Noelle Guastucci's foot became covered in a rash, and swelled up so much she could barely make out her toes, she told Fox 5 San Diego. When she visited the emergency room medics diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis.

Guastucci told Fox 5 San Diego that doctors said she was facing a foot amputation, and could even have died if she had waited a few more hours to seek help. 

The condition is known colloquially as "flesh-eating" bacteria, but the tissue isn't actually eaten away; it dies due to the infection. It is caused by more than one type of bug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The A. Streptococcus group of bacteria is thought to be the most common cause.

The potentially deadly problem can develop if bacteria finds its way into the body from cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds and surgical wounds.

The symptoms overlap with other conditions and can be confused for flu or gastroenteritis. In the early stages, a sufferer can be hit with a high temperature, as well as severe pain that seems mismatched to the size of the injury. Hours or days later, the condition can cause the area to swell and fluid-filled blisters to form.

The person can also experience vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, the infection can cause sepsis and organ failure. Treatments include a combination of surgery to cut away the infected tissue—which can result in amputations—and a course of antibiotics

At first, Guastucci felt like she had an internal bruise, she told Fox 5 News. Gradually, her foot began to swell "aggressively."

Her foot became "excruciating" and she suffered 11 out of 10 on the pain scale. "It felt like someone had poured acid on my foot," she said.

Guastucci isn't sure where she picked up the infection. After being admitted on 4 July, she was still in hospital this on 16 July. Guastucci warned others to seek "immediate" attention if they experience similar symptoms.

To prevent skin infections, the CDC stresses wound care is important. If you suffer a cut, be sure to clean it with soap and water and cover open wounds with clean, dry bandages. Visit a doctor if your skin is punctured or deeply wounded. Those with wounds should steer clear of hot tubs, swimming pools, and natural bodies of water like the ocean, lakes and rivers.

Earlier this year, a Florida man was also hospitalized by the "flesh-eating" bacterial infection which he contracted on a fishing trip. Mike Walton from Ozona was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico when he was nicked by a hook. Walton was fishing with the Ozona Fish Camp group.

Eric McLendon, the owner of Ozona Fish Camp, told Newsweek at the time: "He is optimistic and looking forward to fishing again. He has been fishing his whole life here and fishes as often as possible. He would fish every day if time would allow."

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