Flesh Eating Bacteria In The Water

For many, the scariest (or most exciting) part about zip lining is the heights—the dread of falling. But for Aimee Copeland, 24, the fall was just the beginning.

The Georgia woman was on a trip, kayaking the Little Tallapoosa River with friends, when the group decided to give a homemade zip line a go. On Copeland's ride, the line snapped, sending her falling to the ground and opening up a gash in her left leg that required 22 staples.

But days later, Copeland had returned to the hospital still complaining of unbearable pain. When antibiotics hadn't helped by the end of the week, she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis—more commonly known as flesh eating bacteria.

Doctors speculate that a common bacterium, Aeromonas hydrophilia, came in contact with her wound through the water from the river. And, in a flurry of unfortunate circumstances, triggered the muscle-melting disease that resulted in the amputation of Copeland's left leg.

Luckily, most cases of flesh eating bacteria have been "sporadic rather than associated with large outbreaks," the FDA told The New York Daily News. And while up to 70 percent of Aeromonas infections come from recreational sports—fishing, swimming, etc.—it's no reason to avoid the water, Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told ABC News. (Thank goodness.)