Woman diagnosed with flu has flesh-eating bacteria, family says

An Arizona woman has been hospitalized after an initial diagnosis of the flu turned out to be something much worse: a life-threatening case of "flesh-eating" bacteria. Christin Lipinski fell ill with the flu on January 11 and was treated, her family says. But her condition worsened and she developed a bacterial infection.

"After several days of increasing pain and failing to receive proper medical care from multiple medical facilities, Christin was transported by ambulance to a Level 1 Trauma Hospital," her family says on a GoFundMePage. "Due to the time that had lapsed caused by the misdiagnoses, the bacterial infection developed into a highly aggressive form of necrotizing faciitis (flesh eating bacteria)."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing faciitis a "serious bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly and kills the body's soft tissue."

Early symptoms can be mistaken for the flu and can include fever, sore throat, stomachache, nausea, diarrhea, chills, and general body aches. The affected area of the skin often becomes red, swollen, shiny, and hot to the touch and ulcers or blisters may develop.

As the infection spreads, it can lead to dehydration, high fever, fast heart rate, and low blood pressure. Pain may actually lessen as the tissues and nerves are destroyed.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue are vital to treating necrotizing faciitis.

Up to 25 percent of patients die from the infection, due to complications such as kidney failure, blood poisoning, and organ failure, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In Lipinski's case, her family says she underwent two surgeries to remove the infected tissue in an effort to save her life. In total, more than 30 percent of her soft tissue had to be removed.

Lipinski remains sedated in the hospital though her family's latest update says doctors have found no additional pockets of infection and her underlying muscle tissue looks healthy.

"She continues to make further gains, albeit small but we'll take any good news we can get," they write.

Lapinski will likely be hospitalized for several more months before she can safely be discharged, her family says, and they are seeking donations to cover the costs of medical care not covered by insurance.

"Christin's passion to help others led to her becoming a special education teacher but it is unknown when she will be able to return back to work to help support her three beautiful children," they write.