‘It Looked Like It Was Rotting:’ Florida Woman Infected With Flesh-Eating Bacteria, Warns Others

July 17, 2019 Updated: July 17, 2019

A Florida woman has spoken out four years after being infected with a type of flesh-eating bacteria while searching for scallops.

“It’s scary. It makes you really think. I haven’t been back in the water,” Patty Born, of Milton, told local station WEAR.

She was heading from Port St. Joe back home when her leg began feeling “real hot” and “felt weird.”

Born said she then began experiencing nausea and felt hot all over her body.

Hours after the first symptoms appeared, Born was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacterial infection that has been the subject of numerous news articles this summer.

Born recalled that doctors told her that they didn’t expect her to survive.

“They told my husband to call my family,” she said. “They didn’t expect for me to make it, from what I’m told.”

When she looked at her leg, “it looked like it was rotting off,” she told WEAR.

Dr. Edwin Taylor with the Santa Rosa Medical Group in Florida said it is caused by several types of bacteria, including strep.

But he added that Vibrio vulnificus is a common cause of the flesh-eating disease. It is found in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“These are bacteria that live on your skin, but they can also be found in warm bodies of water or stagnant water,” said Dr. Taylor.

He noted that it is more likely to be infected if one has open wounds or a weakened immune system.

“Once the bacteria invades your skin through a break in the skin, the area becomes red, tender and it can be hot to the touch,” said Dr. Taylor.

He recommended that people who experience these symptoms should immediately go to the emergency room. “It can kill you within three days if you don’t seek care immediately,” he added.

Girl Walks After Infection

A 12-year-old Indiana girl is now walking again after battling flesh-eating bacteria that she reportedly caught while vacationing on a Florida beach.

In an Inside Edition video posted on July 3, Kylei recently took her first steps without assistance—several weeks after she contracted the bacteria.

She was skateboarding and received a scrape on her toe, and doctors told the news outlet she contracted the bacteria when it entered the cut after she went in the water.

Her mother, Michelle Brown, said that after the girl went into the water at a beach in Destin, Florida, she suffered pain in her right calf the following day.

“It can be contracted by a scrape, wound, new tattoo, or even through a bruised area of skin. After researching more, 1 out of 3 people who contract Necrotizing Fasciitis die from it, as well as septic shock making that fatality rate even more relevant. I whole heartedly believe she contracted the bacteria through a scrape on her big toe (foot on same leg), while we visited Pompano Beach in Destin, Florida,” she wrote on Facebook.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are several types of flesh-eating bacteria. “Necrotizing means causing the death of tissues. Fasciitis means inflammation of the fascia (the tissue under the skin that surrounds muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels),” the agency says on its website.

Early symptoms include a red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly, severe pain, including pain beyond the area of the skin that is red, and a fever.

“See a doctor right away if you have these symptoms after an injury or surgery. Even though minor illnesses can cause symptoms like these, people should not delay getting medical care. Later symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include: Ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin … changes in the color of the skin … pus or oozing from the infected area,” the agency says.

Dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea are also symptoms.

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