Valley woman hospitalized after being diagnosed with flesh-eating disease

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ - A Valley woman is hospitalized with a flesh-eating disease after being diagnosed with the flu. 

On Jan. 11, Christin Lipinski was diagnosed with the flu and received treatment for the viral infection. However, after experiencing increasingly worse pain, Lipinski was taken to a local trauma center and it was discovered that what began as a bacterial infection had developed into a highly aggressive form of necrotizing fasciitis — an extremely rare and destructive disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can lead to death in a short amount of time and surgery is required to prevent it from spreading.

People are more prone to serious infections when they're sick with the flu because one's immune system is weakened, said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room physician with Banner Health.

"The flu doesn't cause necrotizing fasciitis," LoVecchio explained. "...You're many, many thousands of times more likely to get the flu this year than necrotizing fasciitis once in your lifetime."

Lipinski underwent two surgeries to remove 30 percent of her tissue which had become infected due to the disease. She remains hospitalized in critical, yet stable, condition.

Lipinski has a long road to recovery ahead, a GoFundMe page for her explained. She will have to undergo several skin graft surgeries, reconstruction surgeries and physical therapy. It’s believed she’ll remain in the hospital for several months as a precaution.

Her husband, Nate Lipinski, described his wife as a good person who enjoys volunteering and tutoring children. She's a special education teacher and frequently donates to local charities.

Nate said after she was diagnosed with the flu, the pain continued to get worse and was unbearable for her. The pain first started in her underarm. After she was admitted to the hospital a biopsy was done of the area and she was diagnosed with the flesh-eating bacteria.

"It felt like a horrible dream that I couldn't wake up from," Nate said.

Due to the current circumstances, it’s unknown when Lipinski will be able to return to work, the GoFundMe page said. Donations raised will go towards her medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. As of Sunday afternoon, $2,500 had been raised of the $10,000 goal.

"To me, it has felt like a life-changing event and we haven't even gone through the hard part yet," Nate said.

Additional information about necrotizing fasciitis from the CDC: 

  • The infection is not contagious and most cases occur randomly 
  • The most common way to get the flesh-eating bacteria is through a break in the skin
  • Chances of catching the disease are rare if you practice good hygiene and treat wounds properly
  • Symptoms include:
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Vomiting 
    • Ulcers
    • Blisters
    • Black spots 
  • LoVecchio explained that body aches and fever are the most common symptoms. 
  • Since 2010, 600 to 1,200 cases have occurred in the U.S. each year
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