A San Jose mother is now a quadruple amputee after contracting a bacterial infection that may have been caused by undercooked fish.
After cooking and eating tilapia bought at a local market in July, Laura Barajas (40) became ill almost immediately. She was diagnosed with virulent Vibrio vulnificus, often referred to as the “flesh-eating bacteria,” according to a GoFundMe set up by her friend Anna Messina.
“She almost lost her life. She was on a ventilator,” Messina told KRON-4. “They put her in a medically induced coma. Her toes were black, her feet were black, her bottom lip was black. She had full blown sepsis and her kidneys were failing.”
Barajas, who has a 6-year-old son, spent a month in the hospital before “all four [her] limbs had to be removed to save her life,” according to the GoFundMe.
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Vibrio vulnificus is commonly called the “flesh-eating bacteria” because it can cause necrotizing fasciitis, according to the CDC, which is “a severe infection in which the flesh around an open wound dies.”
The primary treatment for necrotizing fasciitis “is early and aggressive surgical exploration and debridement of necrotic tissue,” according to the CDC.
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In Barajas’s case, this meant amputation of all her limbs.
People generally become infected with Vibrio bacteria by eating raw or undercooked seafood; However, the CDC warns that an open wound — anything from a cut to a recent piercing or tattoo — that comes into contact with the bacteria can lead to infection.
The CDC issued an emergency alert in late August urging health care providers to consider vibrio as a potential cause of infections, as warming seawater encourages the bacteria’s growth.
“One in five people with this infection die—sometimes within 1-2 days of getting sick,” the CDC says.
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At least three people — two in Connecticut and one in New York — have died after being exposed to Vibrio vulnificus this summer, and a man in Texas died after contracting the bacteria from eating raw oysters.
“It’s just very difficult for all of us. That’s terrible. This could have happened to any of us,” Messina said. “Be thankful for what we have right now because it can be taken away so quickly and easily.”