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What's in the water that got Aimee Copeland sick???

8:55 PM, May 18, 2012   |    comments
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CARROLTON, Ga. -- Many have asked what was in the Little Tallapoosa River that got Aimee Copeland so sick? We wanted to know too, so we took a sample a got it tested.

We dropped the samples off to Emory's Center for Global Safe Water to test for Aeromonas Hydrophilia, the bacteria that caused Aimee's condition.

Researcher's grew the cultures overnight and told us that the bacteria is common and usually not a threat unless you have a deep cut.

"We found a concentration of about 140 cells per mL, which is roughly a tablespoon," said Amy Kirby. "That means in every tablespoon of water in the Little Tallapoosa River, there are 140 cells of aeromonas."

That may seem like a lot, but we're told it's nothing to be alarmed about.

Aeromonas is a bacteria you'd find in almost any untreated water -- like a lake or river.

But it alarmed many people after that same bacteria gave Aimee Copeland necrotizing fasciitis, a disease that has her fighting for her life.

Researchers at Emory University say the levels of Aeromonas change daily.

They've seen up to 10,000 cells per mL in the water, but since the disease is so rare- there's no way to tell how much will make you sick.

The main risk is how you're exposed to it.

"You have to be cautious when there is a deep cut or traumatic wound," said Joshua Shak.

"The water and the bacteria get forced into the really deep tissue and then it's difficult to get them back out when you clean," added Kirby.

The bacteria is then able to grow...and spread... and in rare cases...cause necrotizing fasciitis.

Aeromonas is not even the main cause of the infection.

"It's actually rare," Kirby said. "The most common form of necrotizing fasciitis is actually caused by the bacteria streptococcus."

Strep, a name many are familiar with, caused the same disease for a South Carolina Woman.
Lana Kuykendall noticed a black and blue bruise that spread all over her body after she gave birth to twins.

"Like Aeromonas, streptococcus is a very ubiquitous bacteria so you are going to be exposed to it every day," Kirby said. "It's just a matter of getting more dangerous exposures."

Researchers urge that it is still safe to swim and play in the water, as long as you don't have a cut. Aeromonas can also cause stomach cramps and diarrhea if contaminated water is ingested.

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