A 70-year-old woman was fishing off the coast of Alabama when she pricked the back of her hand. Three hours later, her husband says she was desperately ill. “The woman’s hand began to swell, and she experienced fever, chills, and headaches,” reports Gulf Coast News Today. “Hours, later, about 3 a.m., the couple headed home to Mississippi where he checked her into the emergency room.”
For hours, doctors worked to remove tissue from her hand and forearm—only just saving her hand. When the cultures came back, they confirmed she had contracted vibrio vulfinicus bacteria—more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. Doctors assume that she contracted the infection from Gulf water.
“With all things considered, when you look at the statistics, the doctors keep telling us she’s a miracle,” her husband told the news outlet. “Most people either die or lose a limb.”
Last month, a man from Texas wasn’t so lucky. After swimming in the Gulf, he contracted flesh-eating bacteria through a new tattoo that hadn’t quite healed, giving the bacteria easy access to his body. The man already suffered from liver damage, and he died of cirrhosis weeks later. “Doctors say patients with existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems are more at risk to suffer from this bacteria and a host of others that live in fresh and salt waters.”
On July 7th, The Alabama Department of Public Health warned residents that Vibrio cases have been reported along Alabama's Gulf Coast, and they urged people with open wounds or compromised immune systems to stay out of the water. They also urged people with compromised immune systems to avoid eating undercooked or raw seafood—especially oysters.
Symptoms typically occur within 24 hours and include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, chills, and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, CBS reports that 80% of people who visit the doctor within 24 hours should be just fine.
Be careful when swimming in Gulf Coast waters! It’s always smart to avoid exposing wounds to water, and if you get cut in the water, always make sure to clean it out thoroughly afterward.