ATLANTA — Three women in metro Atlanta have battled a rare flesh-eating bacteria.
The wife of a Gwinnett County police officer was hospitalized last week and is fighting to survive.
CBS46 spoke with experts at Emory University, who said the infection usually occurs at random and anyone can be infected, but it is extremely rare. Usually, your body can fight off the bacteria.
That is not the case for Cindy Martinez. She may lose her arms or legs. Martinez has no idea how she contracted necrotizing fasciitis.
“It is even more rare in people that are healthy like my wife,” shared Martinez’ husband, David Martinez.
Tamika Compton from Hall County also doesn’t know where she picked up the flesh-eating infection a couple months ago.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Compton told CBS46.
Dr. Anne Spaulding, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Emory University, told CBS46 there are bacteria present all around us and usually pose no threat, but bacteria can become flesh-eating under the right set of highly unusual circumstances.
“This is extremely extremely rare,” Dr. Spaulding stated.
“My left leg was quickly rotting,” recalled Aimee Copeland. Her infection is probably the most recognized case of flesh-eating bacteria in metro Atlanta. In 2012, she lost portions of all her limbs after a freak zip line accident at the Little Tallapoosa river.
“The line snapped and I fell into the sharp rocks below,” Copeland said.
“With a scrape or an open wound, there can be bacteria that lodges very deep,” explained Dr. Spaulding.
Doctors say if someone has a break in their skin and they come into contact with something that is unsanitary, like stagnate water, it increases the chances bacteria will turn against you.
“It is often characterized by a lot of pain in that area, out of proportion to what you would normally think of with an open wound, and if it is rapidly progressive,” shared Dr, Spaulding about flesh-eating infections.
Doctors say if you think you have a flesh-eating bacteria, don’t hesitate to seek emergency care as every minute counts. A good way to protect yourself is to keep open wounds clean.