A Phoenix-area woman is in critical condition after what she thought was a side effect of the flu turned out to be a rare flesh-eating disease.
Christin Lipinski, a mom of three and school teacher, was diagnosed with influenza earlier this month. Days later, she was in severe pain at the hospital.
Lipinski did have the flu. She also had necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating infection.
"It felt like a horrible dream that you can't wake up from," her husband Nathan said Monday.
This flesh-eating infection spreads quickly, killing the body's soft tissue. Immediate surgery is critical to prevent death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, surgeons inside Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix have removed 30% of Lipinski's skin on her left side.
"You can't just go in an make a little incision," Arizona Burn Center Director Dr. Kevin Foster said, "and if you don't get it the first time, often times you don't have a second chance."
Group A strep, the bacterium that also causes strep throat, is the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, according to public health experts
Foster said he believes all the infected tissue was removed and Lipinski will pull through.
But recovery won't be easy. A GoFundMe set up for the family estimates Lipinski will be hospitalized for several months.
William Pitts of KPNX-TV, Phoenix, contributed to this report.