Warning: Graphic photos.
WFLA reported that Leann Thibodeau entered the water at the beach, just south of Venice, on Saturday, June 29, with a tiny cut on her foot that had already scabbed over. She told the news outlet that by Tuesday, her foot was showing signs of redness and infection.
She told WATE News that she even joked around with her friends that she might have contracted a flesh-eating disease, never thinking this was actually the case.
“I didn’t believe that I had flesh-eating bacteria,” Thibodeau told WINK News. “I am like, ‘my foot is just infected. No big deal.’”
By Independence Day, she was unable to walk. She said her mother took her to Port Charlotte’s Bayfront Health, where she was diagnosed with a flesh-eating infection.
“I could not believe that this had happened to me,” Thibodeau told WINK News.
Doctors told her the infection was caused by “group A Streptococcus,” according to WFLA. “I’m with family, and still being in the hospital,” she told the outlet, adding, “I hardly have time to breathe.”
WFLA posted the story on its Facebook page, where it sparked numerous reactions.
“I don’t know what to think. I love the ocean,” one commenter wrote, to which someone replied, “Don’t go in with an open sore/wound.”
“I ended up getting flesh-eating disease on my leg from a cut on my knee,” someone wrote in the comments section. “I went to the hospital and was in a coma for 10 days my chances survival was slim after I woke up from the coma I was still in the hospital for 5 weeks I still have my leg however it is been destroyed because of the disease.”
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.
12-Year-Old Girl Walks After Being Infected With Flesh-Eating Bacteria
The incident recalls the case of a 12-year-old Indiana girl who reportedly battled the same flesh-eating disease as Thibodeau after catching the bacteria 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.
Doctors told the news outlet she contracted the bacteria when it entered a cut she had on her toe after she went in the water. Her leg swelled to an abnormal size, making it impossible for her to walk.
According to CBS News, officials said that it would take the girl months to recover from the bacterial infection.
‘I Had to Put Her on My Back’
Brown told CBS that the day after the girl went into the water at a beach in Destin, Florida, she suffered pain in her right calf.
She told the news outlet the pain only got worse and prevented her from walking.
“At that point, I had to put her on my back and carry her around,” Brown said.
When she took her daughter to a doctor in Indianapolis, she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis.
Brown posted a warning message on Facebook, saying, “I have spent the past few days seeing numerous friends and family at the beach enjoying their family vacations, and I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach and fear for those I know.”
“The storms from the days prior had stirred up the ocean and it wasn’t as clear as it normally is. The water looked murky. We were only allowed in the water to our ankles because the waves were huge and the undertow was too dangerous,” she wrote.
Brown then called on others to be aware of the bacteria and its symptoms.
“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.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.