Last week, Amanda Edwards was hardly in the water of the coast of Norfolk, Virginia long enough to cool down – but it was long enough to contract a flesh-eating bacterial infection.
The next day, she started feeling off and she noticed an inflamed red spot on her thigh.
After two days of spreading redness and swelling so painful that she couldn’t walk, Amanda went to the hospital where doctors diagnosed the infection.
To stop the spread, they had to slice the leg open to drain the swelling and pack it with gauze for days.
Amanda is now recovering on a course of antibiotics, and hardly a mark from her harrowing ordeal, but she’s warning summer swimmers to check beach advisories to be sure the water is safe before you take a dip.
Amanda Edwards’s leg swelled up so badly she couldn’t work and had to have a wound drained after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial infection after swimming in the ocean in Virginia
‘The way it was spreading, it was going up my leg,’ Amanda told WTKR.
‘I was like “Oh my goodness…my leg is gonna fall off.”‘
On a blazing hot day last week, Amanda and her friends headed to Ocean View Beach for some sun and swimming.
She’s certain she wasn’t in the water more than 10 minutes.
But she shouldn’t have been in it at all.
Amanda told WTKR that there had been an advisory that day about the quality of the water at the beach – but Amanda hadn’t payed any attention to it.
About a third of humans carry staph bacteria on their skin, where it’s harmless, but this means it can shed into the water.
These bacteria are becoming more common, thriving in waters warmed by climate change and infecting more and more beach goers.
Under most circumstances, a healthy, young woman like Amanda wouldn’t need worry about what was in the water.
Amanda watched the spot go from red and sore to oozing pus (left). At the hospital, it had to be cut open and drained to get the dangerous flesh eating bacteria out (right)
Flesh-eating staph infections, like the one that Amanda contracted, are opportunistic and typically strike people with weakened immune systems from other conditions, the very old or very young.
But if you have an open cut or wound, as Amanda likely did, the bacteria can sneak into the bloodstream beneath the skin.
From there, the infection typically causes blisters as well as the swelling and pain the Amanda felt and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever and chills.
‘I did not feel good,’ Amanda recalled.
‘I noticed this thing on my leg.
‘I ignored it for a couple days, and it just started getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, to the point where I couldn’t walk any more.’
Amanda was lucky that the infection didn’t become more widespread than it did, and after treatment to drain the swelling and antibiotics, she was soon able to go home from the hospital.
But she admits the experience has shaken her.
‘Every time I go into the water, I’m gonna think about that bad experience,’ she said.
And she hopes other swimmers will think about her bad experience, too, before they go into the ocean.
‘Please check the news and make sure there is not an advisory out because there was not signs out there,’ Amanda said.
Counties with beaches typically have listings on their websites with water quality and other safety advisories for each beach.
In addition to checking advisories and avoiding swimming in open water if you have any open cuts or wounds, it’s recommended to wash off with soap and water after getting out of the ocean to be sure you aren’t taking any flesh-eating bacteria with you.