After Woman Dies From Flesh-Eating Bacteria, We Reveal the Symptoms Doctors Should Have Caught

What should have been a wonderful trip to Florida ended in tragedy for an Indianapolis couple. Carol Martin died from flesh-eating disease after doctors missed some telltale symptoms, according to The Miami Herald.

Only 600 to 1,200 cases of flesh-eating disease are reported annually in the U.S. since 2010, according to the CDC. Because the disease is so rare, obvious symptoms may be missed. What exactly is flesh-eating bacteria and what are the symptoms doctors should have caught? Sadly, one question (page 5) may have helped doctors make a quick diagnosis.

1. What is flesh-eating disease?

Scientist with microscope

The bacteria is rare but deadly. | Getty Images

Typically developed from more than one bacterium, flesh-eating disease or necrotizing fasciitis generates toxins that erode tissue, according to Medicine Net. Bacterial culprits include Streptococcus pyogenes and possibly Klebsiella, Clostridium, E. coli, or Staphylococcus aureus.

The disease destroys connective tissue and may damage the tissues adjacent to the fascia, the CDC reports. The disease quickly releases toxins, which may result in loss of limbs or life.

Next: Doctors missed this big sign.

2. Martin’s husband suspects this is when the infection started

Young woman brushing healthy hair in front of a mirror

She noticed a sore within hours of exposure.  | gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Martin discovered what appeared to be a sore pimple on her buttock. The sore is consistent with the CDC’s description of an early symptom, typically appearing within hours of exposure.

According to the CDC: “Some people may complain of pain or soreness, similar to that of a ‘pulled muscle.’ The skin may be warm with red or purplish areas of swelling that spread rapidly. Some people get ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin.”

Next: Physicians didn’t do this when Martin went to the hospital the first time.

3. No one performed this test right away


Doctors waited to perform an autopsy. | Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

Martin was given antibiotics and told to apply heat to her sore during her first trip to the ER, CBS News reports. The sore didn’t respond to the medication and grew bigger.

The couple returned to the hospital two more times until, during the third visit, a physician performed a biopsy and discovered Martin had necrotizing fasciitis.

Next: She also had these disturbing symptoms while on the antibiotic.

4. Doctors brushed off these other alarming symptoms

Sick woman cough in ved under blanket

She had already begun to show symptoms. | samotrebizan/iStock/Getty Images

Before Martin returned to the hospital for the third time, she couldn’t eat, sleep, and was vomiting blood, People reports.

The CDC reports fever, chills, fatigue and vomiting are other warning signs of necrotizing fasciitis.

Next: This simple question may have saved her life.

5. This 1 question may have changed everything

Couple kissing in hot tub

Could a hotel hot tub have been the culprit? | iStock/Getty Images

One way you can contract an illness from flesh-eating bacteria is by spending time in natural bodies of water, hot tubs, whirlpools or swimming pools if you have an open wound or skin infection, according to the CDC. Martin spent time in the hotel hot tub, which may have been the infection source.

Next: Physicians should also ask this question.

6. These are other factors that put you at greater risk


People with alcohol issues are at higher risk. | Panpetch Petchphloy/iStock/Getty Images

Doctors should have asked Martin if she had any open cuts or sores, which is how the bacteria enters the bloodstream. Also, people with chronic lung or heart disease, use steroids or abuse alcohol or IV drugs are at a greater risk too, according to Healthline.

Next: Sadly, Martin’s life could have been saved.

7. Although aggressive, you can survive flesh-eating bacteria

If caught early, you can survive. | iStock/Getty Images

If caught early, the patient receives strong, IV antibiotics and doctors may perform surgery to remove any dead tissue, according to the CDC. The surgery is vital to halting the infection’s spread.

Next: You can take these steps to reduce your risk.

8. These simple steps may lower your risk

Washing Hands

Washing your hands could make a big difference. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Vigilant wound care can also reduce your chances of getting necrotizing fasciitis. Care includes cleaning open or draining wounds with dry bandages until healed, getting medical attention for wounds, and using good hand washing practices.

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