This is flesh-eating bacteria, magnified a lot. And the type of bacteria attacking 24-year-old Aimee Copeland's body, Aeromonas hydrophila, is "remarkably common."
Don't panic — most people who come into contact with the bacteria end up just fine. While necrotizing fasciitis, the fancy term for bacteria eating you alive from the inside out, occurs about 750 times a year, Copeland's case is especially rare. There have only been a handful of cases of flesh-eating bacteria caused by Aeromonas hydrophila reported over the past few decades.
Copeland contracted the bacteria when she cut her leg deeply in a zip line accident near the Little Tallapoosa River in Georgia. Since then, she has lost a leg and part of her abdomen. Doctors may have to amputate her fingers as well.
To make this nightmare scenario even more nightmarish — every time Copeland wakes up, she forgets what has happened to her, a side effect of the medication. In fact, she usually expresses concern about finishing her thesis.
Nevertheless, doctors are optimistic. While four out of five people survive necrotizing fasciitis, Copeland's case was particularly virulent and widespread. According to her father, doctors have called his daughter's recovery "mind-boggling" and "confounding." Andy Copeland himself calls it "miraculous."
We really don't see the suffering side of it. We see the miraculous survival. I think that's the story that's inspired us, that's the story that's inspired, I think, the nation at this point.
Physicians continue to monitor her progress hourly.
While the Washington Post offers some tips on not contracting flesh-eating bacteria, this is really one of those rare but horrifying conditions only a tiny percentage of people will ever face.
Just to be on the safe side, though, Andy Copeland has some advice that definitely can't hurt — stay away from homemade zip lines.
[Image via AP]