Louise Thompson, South Carolina Woman, Is 5th Recent Case Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

A Greenville, S.C., grandmother is the latest person to contract necrotizing fasciitis in recent weeks, the fifth in a string of flesh-eating bacteria cases throughout the southern United States.

Fox Carolina reported that Louise Thompson first experienced signs of the flesh-eating bacteria on her leg about two months ago, when she began feeling a "pin-sticking" sensation on her skin. Doctors had to cut out a football-sized portion of her leg.

The New York Daily News reported that Thompson isn't sure how she got the infection.

Fox Carolina reported that Thompson was able to stand up for the first time last Friday, and hopes to leave the hospital soon.

There are no clear figures on the number of people who develop necrotizing fasciitis each year, though Vanderbilt University Medical Center estimates 250 or fewer cases annually, the New York Daily News reported.

For the full story on Louise Thompson, watch Fox Carolina's report above.

Before Thompson, Paul Bales, of Milledgeville, Ga., was the fourth recent case of flesh-eating bacteria. NBC 11 Alive in Atlanta reported that Bales needed a partial leg amputation because of the infection.

Other recent cases include Georgia man Bobby Vaughn, who has had five surgeries already for his necrotizing fasciitis, and Lana Kuykendall, a new mom in South Carolina who has had at least 11 surgeries.

Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old Georgia woman, was the first in the string of recent cases, and she contracted the flesh-eating bacteria after falling from a homemade zipline. She has since had her hands, left leg and right foot amputated. The Associated Press reported that Copeland spoke for the first time last week.

The risk for necrotizing fasciitis increases when a person's immune system is already weakened; when a person has other health problems like diabetes or kidney disease; when there are cuts on the skin; when the body has decreased infection resistance because of medications; and when a person has just the chickenpox or another kind of viral infection, WebMD reported.

According to the 2007 World Journal of Emergency Surgery study, necrotizing fasciitis can be hard to diagnose -- but being too slow to diagnose it carries an increased risk of death.

The first symptoms are typically seen in the first day, and include new wounds elsewhere (even though the original wound usually doesn't yet look infected), the sensation of pain somewhere near the original wound and flu-like symptoms.

Three or four days later, the part of the body where the infected wound is may start to swell up and dark marks and rashes may occur. The actual wound may also start to have a "bluish, white, or dark, mottled, flaky appearance," according to the study. And within four or five days, the body's blood pressure may decrease and may experience septic shock. The person may also become unconscious.

Treatments for necrotizing fasciitis may include antibiotics and surgery so that the infected parts of the body are removed and don't spread the infection elsewhere, according to WebMD. Other treatments may be needed for the other problems that come with infection -- like possible organ failure or shock -- and hyperbaric oxygen therapy may also be used to stop the body's tissue from dying, WebMD reported.