An elderly woman from Mississippi has lost parts of her arm and hand after contracting a dangerous flesh-eating bacteria known as vibrio vulfinicus during a fishing trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Now, authorities are trying to learn how exactly she came in contact with the bacteria.
The 70-year-old retired teacher’s ordeal began when she reached into a bait bucket of live shrimp and pricked the back of her hand, Gulf Coast News Today reported. Within three hours, her husband claimed, the woman had fallen “deathly sick” – she suffered fever, chills, and headaches as her hand swelled.
Doctors quickly identified that the woman had contracted vibrio vulfinicus and put her in surgery within hours to stop the spread. She underwent a second operation to remove dead tissue and will go under the knife a third time for reconstructive purposes.
“They removed a lot of tissue from her hand and forearm,” her husband said. “The cultures came back as vibrio… With all things considered, when you look at the statistics, the doctors keep telling us she’s a miracle. Most people either die or lose a limb.”
Officials are well aware of the threat posed by vibrio vulfinicus to humans who come in contact with Gulf waters, but authorities are hoping to discover whether the woman contracted the bacteria from the water itself or from the shrimp she was using as bait.
A Texas man died last month after contracting vibrio vulfinicus while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. He had just received a new tattoo and ignored orders to avoid swimming until it fully healed. The man also suffered from a preexisting liver condition, weakening his immune system enough so that when the bacteria entered his body through the tattoo, it quickly proved fatal.
The woman’s husband insists that she only came in contact with the water when she reached into their bait bucket or pulled her catch out of the water. Despite her painful experience, the couple does not blame the Gulf.
“It’s very nasty stuff,” he said of the flesh-eating bacteria. “We love this area. It was just a freak thing.”