Has Hurricane Harvey created flesh-eating bacteria?

Has Hurricane Harvey created flesh-eating bacteria?

Don’t go in the water!

A Houston-area woman has reportedly died from a flesh-eating bacterial infection she contracted from Hurricane Harvey floodwaters.

The medical examiner has listed necrotizing fasciitis as the cause of death for Nancy Reed, Harris County’s 36th fatality related to the storm.

Necrotizing what?

Necrotizing fasciitis is more commonly known as flesh-eating disease and is an infection that results in the death of the body’s soft tissue. It is a very aggressive and very lethal infection, but can be treated with antibiotics and death can be prevented if the infection is diagnosed quickly.

“The bacteria that caused necrotizing fasciitis are not strange or unique bacteria,” said Dr. David Persse, public health authority for the city of Houston. Apparently, these kinds of bacteria can live in swimming pools or natural bodies of water and the flood waters, contaminated by sewage and fecal matter, just “happened to have more” bacteria than other bodies of water.

Typically, the infection enters the body through a break in the skin such as a cut or burn. It is usually then treated with surgery to remove infected tissue and followed up with intravenous antibiotics. Despite high-quality treatment, the risk of death is between 25% and 35%!

The case of Nancy Reed

In the case of Nancy Reed, reports indicate that she died as a result of contracting necrotizing fasciitis when she fell into the waters of a flooded residence, “sustaining a traumatic injury.”

Reed was at her son’s home when she fell, breaking and cutting her arm in the process. This injury unknowingly resulted in her contracting the fatal flesh-eating disease and she was taken to Texas Medical Center after her wound became infected. She died on Sept. 15, three weeks after Hurricane Harvey made Texas landfall.

Hurricane Harvey’s fallout

It has been a long few weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit and its effects continue to make themselves known throughout local communities.

The Houston area in particular saw record levels of flooding in the wake of the Category 4 storm. This prompted official warnings for residents to avoid the floodwaters over fears of bacteria and dangerous toxins, the contaminated waters where necrotizing fasciitis can live.

Reports indicate that Reed’s death was “really, really hard,” said Mark Renn, associate pastor for missions and evangelism at First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood, where her memorial service was held. “It really opened a lot of people’s eyes to [the fact that] this is serious stuff we are dealing with and the water does not just smell; it’s full of sewage and deadly bacteria and all this kind of stuff.”


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