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Michigan woman with flesh-eating infection necrotizing fasciitis dies

Facebook/Crystal Spencer

(CBS News) A Farmington Hills, Mich. woman has died after battling the flesh-eating bacterial infection, necrotizing fasciitis.

Thirty three-year-old Crystal Spencer died on July 29 in Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce Township, Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press. She passed away about one month after she had originally been admitted to the hospital for the disease, CBS Detroit reported.

Mich. woman battling flesh-eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis

The family is requesting an autopsy to determine why Spencer died. Jeff Spencer, Crystal's husband, told the Detroit Free Press through his lawyer that he believes that his deceased wife got necrotizing fasciitis after she went to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills in June to have a large boil on her thigh lanced. Two days later, she was receiving care at Huron Valley-Sinai for the flesh eating bacteria and had a four-hour procedure to remove what her husband described as a watermelon-size piece of flesh from her thigh.

"We have real concerns about - that she possibly got this infection - the procedure may not have been done appropriately that's the working assumption right now and we are seeking all the medical records to confirm whether that's true or not," Spencer's attorney Brian Benner told CBS Detroit.

Spencer had to have a tracheotomy tube inserted to help her breathe and had several skin grafts to cover areas affected by the infection. Surgery was required to remove a mass from her stomach as well. She had been sent home after showing improvement, but came back to Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, where she passed away.

Botsford spokeswoman Margo Gorchow denied claims that Spencer got the disease at the hospital to the Detroit Free Press. She said that Dr. Gerald Blackburn, the hospital's infectious diseases director, and others had looked at Spencer's case, and they believe she did not get the bacteria from the hospital. Because she had several risk factors for the infection such as being overweight, a smoker and a diabetic - "the classic example of a person at risk" Gorchow explained - she was "more vulnerable" to developing the disease. Gorchow also pointed out that Spencer, who entered the hospital with no symptoms, failed to see a doctor the day after she had her boil removed as was recommended on her discharge instructions.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare and serious bacterial infection that spreads quickly through soft tissue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being able to accurately diagnose and treat it quickly can help with recovery. The infection can be caused by more than one type of flesh-eating bacteria, which may enter through a cut, scrape, burn, insect bite, puncture wound or any break in the skin. Chronic health conditions and diseases like diabetes and kidney disease and lower the body's ability to fight off the infection.

There have been several high profile cases of the disease recently, including the case of Aimee Copeland from Georgia. The 24-year-old contracted the disease following a zip-lining accident in which she received a deep cut. Despite losing both hands, her left leg and her right foot, she's showing promising improvements in rehabilitation therapy and her doctors are optimistic.

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