An elderly woman from Kingwood, Texas, died earlier this month of a flesh-eating bacterial infection that she contracted after falling into the floodwaters that Hurricane Harvey swept into her home, becoming the second person to fall ill from contaminated storm water.
Nancy Reed, 77, died on September 15 of flood-related necrotizing fasciitis, a devastating infection that tears through muscle tissues and can result in organ failure, the Houston Chronicle reported. The infection is uncommonly reported among people who make contact with Gulf of Mexico waters while having an open wound.
“It’s tragic,” said Dr. David Persse, director of Kingwood’s emergency medical services. “This is one of the things we’d been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur. My heart goes out to the family.”
Reed was at her son’s home when she suffered a fall, breaking and cutting her arm. When the cut got infected, she was taken to a nearby hospital and transferred to a larger medical center before, where she died.
Last month, a former firefighter and medic named J.R. Atkins was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which he is believed to have contracted from an insect bite on his arm that he got while helping rescue his neighbors in Mississippi City. He survived.
Doctors in Texas are not required to report necrotizing fasciitis because it is not considered a disease. However, many of the organisms that cause the disease – most commonly streptococcus, as well as vibrio vulnificus in salt water – must be reported to authoirities.
Anywhere from 700 to 1,100 cases of necrotizing fasciitis have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year caused by group A strep, but it is unclear how many of those infections lead to death. Speedy treatment with antibiotics is known as the surest way to prevent the condition from becoming fatal.