(WVUE) - A Texas woman died after contracting Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria found in warm, brackish water and in raw shellfish. Despite the woman's death, doctors want seafood lovers to know it’s an extremely rare occurrence.
Enjoying a trip to Louisiana at the end of September, Jeannette Leblanc indulged in some raw oysters.
"About 36 hours later she started having extreme respiratory distress, had a rash on her legs and everything," said Leblanc’s wife, Vicki Bergquist.
Earlier that day, Leblanc had also waded through brackish water.
“Usually this is a food-borne or water-borne illness," said LSU Health Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Fred Lopez. "You can get it from eating under-cooked shellfish. The other way people can acquire this infection is through an open wound or a wound that’s created while swimming.”
So Leblanc had two sources for possible contamination. After fighting the infection for three weeks in a Baton Rouge hospital, she passed away Oct. 15, 2017.
"She was bigger than life. She was a great person, laughed a lot, fun, loved her family, loved her dad,” Bergquist said.
Lopez says it's important to know that cases like Leblanc's are rare. Anyone who contracts Vibrio vulnificus and experiences such dramatic health effects typically has a pre-existing condition.
“Patients with liver disease, for example, cirrhosis, secondary to alcohol use, secondary to chronic viral hepatitis infections, they're 80 times more likely to have the blood stream infection than people who don’t have those conditions,” Lopez said.
He also said a majority of people infected with vibrio will experience minor gastrointestinal issues. Typically, around 200 people a year across the country contract the bacteria.
In addition to the pre-existing conditions Lopez mentioned, he says people who take anti acid reflux medicine are also at risk of contracting Vibrio vulnificus if exposed to it.
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