In the most severe cases, organs can go into systemic shock, accompanied by respiratory and/or heart failure.
Jacqueline Roemmele, executive director of The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation and NF survivor, says Copeland's case is typical in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
"It's pretty typical, and tragic," Roemmele said. "It's lightening fast, and drastic steps have to be taken quickly."
Roemmele, who calls herself the "grandma of flesh-eating disease" because she contracted the bacteria 18 years ago, says the most important thing to watch out for is pain out of proportion to the injury.
"If you have a tiny cut on your leg, and 5-6 hours later your entire leg is killing you, and you have a fever, and your leg is turning red and swelling, don't wait," she says. "Get to a doctor."
Copeland's case is atypical, however, in that she contracted the bacteria through water, Roemmele says. Some have contracted the bacteria in shellfish, while shucking oysters, for example. And in a strikingly similar case to Copeland's, a Long Island woman contracted the bacteria last year on spring break while playing in the water.