California woman has limbs amputated from bacterial infection after eating undercooked fish

Laura Barajas went to the hospital after realizing something ‘was terribly wrong’ and was diagnosed with Vibrio vulnificus

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A woman in California had all her limbs amputated after contracting a bacterial infection from eating undercooked tilapia.

Laura Barajas, a 40-year-old mother to a six-year-old boy, purchased the seafood from a local San Jose market last month and “cooked herself a dinner after a long day,” a GoFundMe campaign on her behalf says.

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The following day, after realizing something “was terribly wrong,” Barajas went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Vibrio vulnificus, a dangerous bacterial infection.

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In order to save her life, doctors had to amputate all four of her limbs, and she has been hospitalized in the ICU for the past month fighting for her life.

“Laura is healing well and looking forward to moving out of the ICU into another room at the hospital,” the website says.

So far, almost US$60,000 has been raised out of their goal of US$150,000 in hopes of helping Barajas and her family during the healing process. As medical bills mount, the family explains that Barajas’ physical condition will necessitate significant changes to their lives as they adapt to her new circumstances.

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Earlier this summer, a Missouri man died after contracting the flesh-eating bacteria from eating raw oysters from a seafood stand.

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Another three Connecticut and New York residents died from infections linked to Vibrio vulnificus.

The presence of bacteria increases in coastal waters from May through October due to the sea temperatures warming up during those months, creating favourable conditions for bacteria such as Vibrio to multiply.

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Vibrio vulnificus
A 3D illustration of Bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, the causative agent of serious seafood-related infections. Photo by Getty Images

Infections from Vibrio vulnificus cause abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and blisters. Death is a rare outcome, however, those with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible. People infected with Vibrio vulnificus typically begin experiencing symptoms 12 to 72 hours after consuming raw or undercooked seafood, although it might take up to a week before symptoms appear, Food Safety News reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided tips for reducing the risk of contracting vibriosis.

  • Always cook oysters or other shellfish before eating: Don’t eat them raw or undercooked.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw shellfish.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
  • Stay out of salt water or brackish water if you have a wound (including from a recent surgery, piercing or tattoo) if there’s a possibility it could come into contact with salt water or brackish water, raw seafood or raw seafood juices, or cover the wound with a waterproof bandage.
  • Wash cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to sea water or raw seafood or its juices.

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