A man has been killed by flesh-eating bacteria after surviving Hurricane Harvey.
Josue Zurita, who lived in Galveston, Texas, went to the hospital with an infected wound two weeks ago, local news KHOU reports. The man was quickly diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, an infection that can destroy skin as well as fat and muscles in a very short space of time. The severe condition, commonly called flesh-eating disease, can enter the body through a break in the skin.
Mr Zurita, a carpenter, went to the Galveston County Health District with an infected wound at the top of his left arm. Unfortunately, the hospital was unable to save his life, and he died six days later.
Zurita was doing demolition work after the hurricane when he contracted the disease.
Local health authority Dr Philip Keiser said that the infection was most likely due to an infection picked up from hurricane debris that got into Zurita’s arm through a cut. He described how he’d seen infections like Zurita’s spread around the body extremely quickly.
“In one case, as I was examining a patient, I could see the red spread in the minutes I was examining him,” Keiser told CNN, “and that’s the real danger to it. As it spreads, it’s going up the space between the muscle and skin, and as it does that, it kills all the nerves and the blood vessels can clot.”
Whilst there have been several reported cases of flesh-eating disease since Hurricane Harvey, including a man who survived the disease last month, it’s not because the hurricane waters are rife with the bacteria. It’s because people are more likely to come into contact with water containing bacteria in general.
“The water has been everywhere. It increases the chance that someone could be exposed to the water,” Chris Van Deusen, from the Texas Department of State Health Services, told Newsweek.
“Our advice, always, is avoid contact with the water as much as you can… If you get a cut, wash it with soap and clean water, don’t expose that cut or whatever that open wound is to water anymore.”
Flesh-eating disease is the name given to the condition, which can be caused by several different bacteria, and is more likely to occur in people with a weakened ability to cope with infections, like those with diabetes or kidney disorders. If you have a strong robust immune system, the chances of catching it are extremely rare.
Without quick treatment, however, necrotizing fasciitis can be fatal. The CDC recommends that you treat wounds well, and see a doctor straight away if you experience fever, chills, or vomiting.