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FLESH-EATING BACTERIA STILL HAUNT N.C. WOMAN

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Doris Stroupe has endured more than two years of pain, anguish and fear that she would be revisited by a strange, flesh-destroying bacteria that nearly killed her.

The disease is back, but this time Stroupe is reading of its attacks on others with a horrified feeling of deja vu."When I read about it I see the same things the doctors told me when I got sick," she said Wednesday.

It was Christmas Day in 1991 when Stroupe, now 56, was rushed to the hospital with flulike symptoms. Doctors diagnosed her with a deadly form of streptococcus bacteria.

The rare bacteria, known as group-A strep, usually appears in cuts or other wounds.

The bacteria are infected with a virus that directs them to produce a toxin, which poisons skin, muscle or internal organs and sends the body's own disease fighters out of control. Tissue can be destroyed at the rate of an inch an hour.

Doctors treat the disease with antibiotics or by cutting away infected areas, including limbs.

As doctors ran tests on Stroupe, her condition worsened. Her husband knew it was serious when she asked him to turn her over in her hospital bed.

"When I touched her back I could see it was covered with blood," Jimmy Stroupe said. Doctors rushed her into the operating room.

"They told us later that if she had not been in the hospital already she could not have lived through the next night," he said. "I gave up on her two times. The worst was when the doctor told me to kiss her goodbye because you may not see her again."

Stroupe has since undergone six operations and skin grafts. She did not lose any of her limbs, but cannot use her left arm because surgeons removed infected muscles.