An Indianapolis mother-of-four died earlier this month after contracting a deadly flesh-eating bacteria while on vacation.
In late February, Carol and Richard Martin, both car racing enthusiasts, took their annual trip to Clearwater, Fla., to see a race at Showtime Speedway. Shortly after their return, Carol noticed what looked like a pimple on her right buttock that was sore to the touch.
She went to the hospital twice and was given antibiotics and a heating pad to treat what doctors believed to be a virus. But after two courses of antibiotics, the 50-year-old’s condition didn’t improve. A GoFundMe page set up by one of her sons details that after several days of vomiting, and eventually progressing to vomiting blood, Richard took Carol to the emergency room where doctors discovered that she had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a deadly flesh-eating bacteria.
“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,’” Richard told ABC6.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe and rapidly progressive infection of the deep soft tissue, also known as fascia. It is caused by bacteria entering a break in the skin — anything from a minor cut or scrape to a post-surgery wound.
Carol immediately underwent an initial surgery to have half of her right buttock removed. Days later, doctors determined that the bacteria had spread, leading them to remove part of her left buttock as well.
“I feel like my family and I can’t catch a break,” her son, Tyler, wrote on the GoFundMe page.
After more than two weeks in hospital, Carol was discharged, but unfortunately passed away at home on May 4.
Although there’s no proof of where or how Carol contracted the necrotizing fasciitis that eventually led to her demise, Richard suspects she got it from sitting in the hot tub at their Days Inn hotel.
“My thing is nobody else got it, the flesh eating bacteria. No one else got it but she was the only one who got in the hot tub,” Richard said to News Channel 8.
However, Dr. Davindra Singh, founder and lead dermatologist at AvantDerm in Toronto and a former emergency room physician, says it’s very uncommon for this kind of flesh-eating infection to be contracted in a hot tub.
“The most common bacteria would be a variant of what gives you strep throat, but it doesn’t come from just one bacteria,” he says. “You can get it from contact with a person who’s infected or from touching an infected surface. In some cases, it can even come from bacteria in your own stool. But it would be very hard to prove that it came from sitting in a hot tub.”
This is a rare infection and he says you need the right environment to contract it. In particular, people with compromised immune systems, like those who suffer from liver or kidney failure or diabetes would be more at risk.
Proper and rapid diagnosis is key, and he says it usually presents as a red, purple or black discolouration of the skin that’s extremely painful. Those infected could also get sick with fever.
In the event that the infection is necrotizing fasciitis, it’s crucial to be operated on immediately to have all the infected skin removed.
“The main thing is to cut out the infection and put the patient on a course of antibiotics,” he says. “You need to diagnose it fast and treat it fast. It’s a true emergency.”
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