A San Jose mother has tragically become a quadruple amputee after losing her arms and legs to a bacterial infection that may have been caused by undercooked fish.
This did not happen in a restaurant, Laura Barajas, 40, bought the fish at a local market and then cooked it herself. She fell ill almost immediately and was diagnosed with the virulent Vibrio vulnificus, often called the “flesh-eating bacteria,” according to a GoFundMe set up by her friend, Anna Messina.
Vibrio vulnificus bacteria are a type of bacteria that can cause serious infections in humans who consume or handle contaminated fish. The bacteria can enter the body through wounds, cuts, or the digestive tract, and cause symptoms such as fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, skin ulcers and “necrotizing fasciitis”. The primary treatment of necrotizing fasciitis “is early and aggressive surgical exploration and debridement of necrotic tissue,” according to the CDC.
“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.
While humans generally become infected with the Vibrio bacteria by eating raw or undercooked seafood, the CDC warns that any 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.
At least six people have died on the East Coast in July and August after being infected with “flesh-eating” bacteria, two people in Connecticut, one person in New York and three in North Carolina. One man in Texas died after contracting the bacteria from eating raw oysters.
“One in five people with this infection die—sometimes within 1–2 days of becoming ill,” the CDC says.
“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.”