A woman from Texas died three weeks after consuming raw oysters that were infected with a rare type of flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria.
The woman, identified as Jeanette LeBlanc, together with her friend Karen Bowers, ate about two dozen fresh oysters contaminated with flesh-eating bacteria near the coast of Louisiana on September 2017.
Thirty-six hours after eating the raw oysters, LeBlanc experienced symptoms of allergic reaction like difficulty in breathing and rashes on her legs that looked like severe wounds. Doctors ruled that LeBlanc had a bacterial infection from Vibrio bacteria or vibriosis.
LeBlanc was unable to recover from the infection and died on Oct. 15, 2017. LeBlanc's partner, Vicki Bergquist, said if they had known that the risks contracting bacteria from eating fresh oysters are high, LeBlanc would've refrained from eating them.
What Are Vibrio Bacteria?
There are approximately a dozen types of Vibriosis-causing bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio alginolyticus among the most common types. While most Vibrio can cause treatable human illnesses, one rare type of flesh-eating vibrio bacteria can cause a fatal necrotizing fasciitis condition.
The common Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in warm coastal waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico. During summer, high concentration of these bacteria can be found in warm waters.
Vibriosis Infections And Illnesses
Approximately 80,000 illnesses and a hundred deaths annually are caused by Vibrio bacteria in the United States. Consuming of contaminated food is the most common cause of Vibriosis, with an estimate of 52,000 people infected each year. More than 45,000 infections are reportedly caused by the specie Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
Most patients who get ill from Vibrio bacteria after eating raw oysters experience vomiting and diarrhea. The more serious illnesses involve bloodstream infections, severe rashes, and skin lesions. About one in every four people with severe Vibrio bacteria infection dies from the illness within a day or two of contracting the bacteria.
Who Are At Risk Of Vibrio Infection?
People with weak immune system are more likely to contract the vibrio bacteria. People with certain health conditions are also at a high risk for serious illness or death due to Vibrio vulnificus infection.
Those who have liver diseases, hemochromatosis, diabetes, cancer, and stomach disorders are considered high risk for Vibriosis if they eat uncooked oysters.
Bake Your Oyster
U.S. Food Safety advises against eating of raw oysters and provided tips on preparing and cooking them. If eating oysters in restaurants, the oysters should be fully cooked by boiling for three to five minutes after the shells are open.
Oysters with open shells before cooking and oysters with shells that did not open after cooking should be discarded.