TODAY   |  May 21, 2012

Georgia hit by 3rd case of flesh-eating bacteria

A third case of a rare, flesh-eating bacterial infection with ties to Georgia has surfaced.  Meanwhile, Aimee Copeland, a young Georgia woman fighting for her life after being infected with the bacteria, is breathing on her own just days after doctors amputated her hands and remaining foot. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>> we want to catch folks up with the story of that young georgia woman fighting for her life after being infected with a rare flesh-eating bacteria. she's now breathing on her own, this just days after doctors had to amputate her hands and remaining foot. gabe gutierrez is in augusta with the latest for us. gabe, good morning.

>> lester, good morning. we've learned of a third case with ties to georgia being treated here, the same hospital where 24-year-old aimee copeland is recovering. in a new blog post aimee 's father says that she's now breathing on her own, she's off the respirator and even cracking jokes. a significant improvement since the amputations late last week. aimee copeland 's emotional roller coaster, documented in her dad's facebook posts. andy copeland writes while his daughter faced losing her hands and feet she did not lose her sense of humor. on wednesday he remembers telling her, aimee , you are as priceless as the mona lisa . his daughter shook her head and mouthed the words, i'm nothing like the mona lisa . she doesn't have eyebrows. by the next day, though, her condition worsened. her father says he finally told her about the accident, how she had contracted the flesh-eating infection while continuelining with her friends. i took aimee 's hands and held them up to her face, he writes. she didn't draw back in horror. she knew the condition she was in. when doctors said they'd have to amputate her hands and remaining foot, she smiled and raised her hands up. we all understood her next three words. let's do this. copeland is not the only one battling necrotizing fasciitis. a south carolina woman contracted the flesh-eating infection just days after giving birth to twins in an atlanta capital. she remains in critical condition in greenville.

>> she does respond sometimes. you can see it in her blood pressure, or she has opened her eyes a little bit at times. but that's pretty much about it.

>> reporter: but now there's a third case with ties to georgia . bobby vaughn is a landscaper from cartersville. he spoke to "today" by phone from his hospital room.

>> i was just -- i was working one day, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. boom.

>> reporter: he says he's been through five surgeries, where doctors removed almost two pounds of infected tissue near his groin.

>> i still don't know the extent of this thing. you know. i don't know -- i mean, i was told i was close to death.

>> reporter: but he's thankful he's now in good condition. and his thoughts are with aimee copeland , who is just a few rooms away at this augusta hospital. the young woman still fighting for her life. experts estimate that these types of infections are rare. they think there are about several hundred cases in the u.s. each year. with about one in