A 70-year-old woman contracted a flesh-eating bacteria while fishing with her husband off the Gulf Coast in Alabama. The woman, whose name is withheld for privacy reasons, lost parts of her hand and arm as a result of contracting the bacteria.

She first became ill last week after she reached into a bucket of live shrimp bait and pricked the back of the hand. Her husband said that three hours later she was “deathly sick.”

Vibrio vulnificus or Citrobacter  freundii. Image Credit: CDC
Vibrio vulnificus or Citrobacter freundii. Image Credit: CDC

The old woman’s hand swelled rapidly, and she experienced a fever, chills, and headaches, according to the medical report.

Flesh-eating bacteria caught by woman in Mississippi caused loss of arm and forearm tissue

The woman, a retired teacher from Mississippi, said she contracted Vibrio vulfinicus in Fairhope, but it’s unclear if she got it from local waters or the shrimp bait.

The couple went back to the mainland and checked into the emergency room, where doctors performed surgery on the woman’s hand.

“They removed a lot of tissue from her hand and forearm,” her husband told Gulf Coast News Today. “The cultures came back as vibrio.”

She underwent a second surgery to remove more dead tissue, and she was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery. She spent more than ten days in a Mississippi hospital fighting the flesh-eating bacteria.

“With all things considered, when you look at the statistics, the doctors keep telling us she’s a miracle,” said her husband. “Most people either die or lose a limb.”

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that thrives in warm water, and among shrimp and shellfish.

Vibrio vulnificus claimed a life last month in Texas

Last month a man died in Texas after contracting the same bacteria while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. The man suffered from liver damage and entered the water with a new tattoo, which gave the bacteria a passageway into his body.

Doctors say patients with preexisting medical conditions, or weakened immune systems, are more at risk to suffer from the vibrio bacteria and becoming a host of other bacteria that live in fresh and salt waters.

Officials stated that while the Gulf and bay waters are ideal homes for Vibrio, it also thrives among shrimp and shellfish.

“This could have been with the shellfish, we don’t know where she obtained the bait, there are a lot of questions to ask and we certainly want to look into it,” said Dr. Karen Landers, the assistant state health officer, Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

Vibrio vulnificus is a notifiable disease in Alabama, which means that medical personnel who treat the bacteria have to report it to the state. The Mississippi hospital hasn’t sent information to Alabama and may not be required to do so. The hospital treating the woman wouldn’t verify the Vibrio diagnosis either, citing HIPAA privacy rules.

The victim’s husband reported she didn’t swim or wade in the bay, but that she had reached into the water to pull up her catch out of the water. The couple said they’re still fans of Fairhope.

Source: Gulf Coast News Today