WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
While a majority of cases diagnosed as flesh-eating bacteria involve a body of water, one California woman who lost the majority of muscle and skin on her left foot said the origin of her infection remains and mystery.
"I retraced my steps and it's still a mystery to the origin," said Noelle Guastucci, of University Heights, told Fox 5 in San Diego
Guastucci, who was released from the hospital on Wednesday after almost two weeks of care, said her doctor said that if she waited until the next morning to seek help, in her lost life.
Guastucci said it started with what it felt like an internal bruise on the Fourth of July, which quickly progressed on the pain scale and was accompanied by intense swelling. Within two minutes her foot had ballooned to a size she knew medical attention required.
"The pain was so excruciating," she told Fox 5 San Diego. "He was rushed to Kaiser Permanente, where doctors worked to control her infection and stop it from spreading."
At its worst, Guastucci's foot bones were almost exposed.
"I was facing perhaps amputation," she told the news outlet. "
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The necrotizing fasciitis cases, or flesh-eating bacteria infections currently dominating the headlines are often the result of swimmers entering the water with open cuts or wounds, and are linked to Vibrio vulnificus, but there are other ways to contract the rare infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experts believe group A Streptococcus is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, although the method of entry is still the same as cases involving water. The bacteria most commonly enter the body through a break in the skin including cuts and scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds, surgical wounds, or blunt trauma
The infection spreads very quickly with early symptoms including red or swollen skin, severe pain and fever that later develops into ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin, changes in skin color, hunger, dizziness, fatigue, or diarrhea or nausea.
Prompt treatment is vital in patients diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. Antibiotics and surgery are typically the first approach, as well as intravenous antibiotics. It is not unusual for patients with this type of infection to require several surgeries and possibly even a blood transfusion. In severe cases it can lead to sepsis, shock and organ failure. It can also leave patients with long-term complications from loss of limbs or scarring. Even with prompt treatment, up to 1 in 3 people diagnosed with the infection die
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It is not clear if Guastucci's case was linked to group A strep, but she said she is thankful to have sought help when she did and for the support she received from family members. She said she wants others to know about the seriousness of the infection.