A San Jose mother is now a quadruple amputee after contracting a bacterial infection that may have come from undercooked fish.
After cooking and eating tilapia purchased from a local market in July, Laura Barajas, 40, fell ill almost immediately. She was diagnosed with the virulent Vibrio vulnificus, often called the “flesh-eating bacteria,” according to a GoFundMe set up by her friend, Anna Messina.
“She almost lost her life. She was on a respirator,” Messina told KRON-4. “They put her into a medically induced coma. Her fingers were black, her feet were black, her bottom lip was black. She had complete sepsis and her kidneys were failing.”
Barajas, who has a 6-year-old son, spent a month in the hospital before “all four of [her] limbs had to be removed in order to save her life,” according to the GoFundMe.Raw tilapia.
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Vibrio vulnificus is commonly called a “flesh-eating bacteria” as 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 of necrotizing fasciitis “is early and aggressive surgical exploration and debridement of necrotic tissue,” according to the CDC.
In Barajas’ case, this meant amputation of all her limbs.
Humans generally become infected with the 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 in contact with the bacteria could lead to infection.
The CDC issued an emergency alert at the end of August urging healthcare providers to consider Vibrio as a potential cause of infections, as warming sea waters are encouraging growth of the bacteria.
“One in five people with this infection die—sometimes within 1–2 days of becoming ill,” the CDC says.
At least three people — two in Connecticut and one in New York — 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 been really heavy on all of us. It’s terrible. This could’ve happened to any of us,” said Messina. “Be thankful for what we have right now because it can be taken away so quickly so easily.”