News & Politics

Arizona Woman Diagnosed With the Flu Contracts Flesh-Eating Bacteria

GoFundMe picture of Christin Lipinski, a woman diagnosed with necrotic fasciitis in Arizona. Her husband and children smile with her.

A woman in Phoenix, Ariz. was diagnosed with the flu early this month, but a few days later she was rushed the hospital to fight life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria. As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe page for her treatment has raised nearly $13,000 of $20,000.

The story began on Thursday, January 11. On that day, Christin Lipinski, a special education teacher and mother of three, was diagnosed with the flu and received treatment for the viral infection. After treatment, her pain worsened, however. On Friday, January 19, she was taken to a local trauma center and diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis.

“Christin has been in ICU for seven days and has now endured seven surgical procedures trying to stop the infection,” Meredith Noche said in an update to the GoFundMe page on Monday. “She has remained fully sedated, intubated, and on the maximum allowable amount of pain medication due to the daily surgeries and intense pain from the required wound care.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that kills the body’s soft tissue and can cause death in “a very short amount of time.” In this case, bacteria infect the fascia, connective tissue around muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. The infection also damages tissues next to the fascia, and sometimes the bacteria can poison untargeted tissue, as well.

Necrotizing fasciitis does not spread between people, and most cases happen randomly. The most common way of getting the infection involves bacteria entering the body through a break in the skin, such as cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, or puncture wounds.

Some people are more prone to contract this kind of infection — especially those suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, or other chronic health conditions that weaken the immune system. Those with the flu have weaker immune systems.

“The flu doesn’t cause necrotizing fasciitis,” Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room physician with Banner Health, told Fox 40. “You’re many, many thousands of times more likely to get the flu this year than necrotizing fasciitis once in your lifetime.”

Lipinski has undergone two surgeries to remove 30 percent of her soft tissue, all of which had become infected due to the disease. On Monday, however, Noche reported that “the surgeon who specializes in this disease located some further diseased tissue and had to expand the wound further down her left arm.”

Here is a picture Noche posted Tuesday, showing the extent of the infection.

Sketch of a woman's body with bacterial infection in yellow.

GoFundMe website screenshot showing the extent of necrotizing fasciitis in the case of Christin Lipinski.

“Christin’s prognosis is still good and she has made some slight gains through the week but there is still a long and uncertain road ahead,” that update concluded.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Noche posted another update. “Christin has had a better day today in that her surgery went well this morning with only minimal tissue removal and debridement being required,” she wrote. “No additional pockets of infection were found today and the underlying muscle tissue is looking healthy. She continues to make further gains, albeit small but we’ll take any good news we can get.”

The update thanked donors for the “incredible amount of support” poured out on Lipinski’s behalf. “We can tell that everyone’s kind words, thoughts and prayer are making a difference,” Noche wrote. “Thank you so much and please continue to keep Christin in your thoughts and prayers.”