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A 40-year-old San Jose woman and mother of a six-year-old child lost her arms and legs after contracting the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.
People reported that Laura Barajas “had all four of her limbs amputated after contracting the aggressive bacteria.”
She is now a quadruple amputee and it is likely that the bacterial infection came from an undercooked fish she bought at a local market. She “fell ill almost immediately.” People ” reported, citing a GoFundMe.
Local news channel KRON-4 spoke with Barajas’ friend Anna Messina, who said, “She almost lost her life. She was on a ventilator.
“They put her in a medically induced coma. Her fingers were black, her feet were black, her lower lip was black. She had complete sepsis and her kidneys were failing,” Messina told KRON-4.
Barajas spent a month in hospital before the amputations that saved his life, with Messina adding: “It’s terrible.”
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory regarding the rare bacterial infection, after at least a dozen people died this year in the United States, according to USA today.
The advisory came after two people were infected with the bacteria after swimming in brackish waters on the Connecticut coastline. A third person in the same state was also infected after eating raw oysters this summer. Five other people recently died in Florida from the flesh-eating bacteria, while it was also found in the body of a deceased person from New York.
This news came shortly after a Missouri public health office announced that a 54-year-old man died from the bacteria after eating raw oysters from a local seafood stand. People reported in June.
Although infection can occur through contact with the bacteria with an open wound, including a recent piercing or tattoo, the most common source of vibriosis is raw or undercooked seafood.
Read on for everything you need to know about the risks and symptoms of vibrio.
What is vibrio?
Vibriosis is not usually fatal, but it causes about 100 deaths per year in the United States. USA today reported. Most infections occur between May and October.
During this hot period, a food expert said Yahoo Canada in a previous interview, oysters have always been a high-risk food.
“They are considered one of the highest risk foods per serving…and the risk increases the longer you eat a food,” said Keith Warriner, a food scientist at the University of Guelph in Ontario. .
“Now with the oysters, I don’t think you’re going to eat them every day.”
Warriner said oysters in Canada, the United States and elsewhere can be contaminated with norovirus or Vibrio, a naturally occurring bacteria.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the bacteria “may be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come into contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.
However, there are different species of bacteria. A species,Vibrio vulnificus is known as a flesh-eating bacteria that can cause life-threatening wound infections, according to Health Canada.
It often causes sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream, which can be fatal, the agency said. People infected withVibrio vulnificus often ends up requiring intensive care or even limb amputations.
According to Warriner, it’s a brutal bacteria.
“When you hear about cases, they’re usually elderly or immunocompromised. … But with Vibrio vulnificus, age doesn’t really matter,” he said.
With other Vibrio species found in oysters, infected people would most likely experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. The illness is also likely to be mild to moderate and most symptoms disappear within a week, according to PHAC.
Why are oysters risky?
Warriner says the reason raw oysters are so risky is because they are harvested from the sea, where the water quality is not the best due to sewage spills and other pollutants.
He referenced a 2022 report from World Wildlife Fund Canada that found “vessels operating in Canadian waters generate 147 billion liters of operational waste each year, the equivalent of 59,000 Olympic swimming pools.”
The report’s press release states that waste streams “collectively contain heavy metals, carcinogenic compounds, oils, microplastics, pathogens, nutrients, toxic chemicals and other pollutants,” thereby reducing the amount of carbon absorbed by the oceans.
“Oysters are called bivalves, which basically means they’re filter feeders. And so anything that’s in the water, like norovirus for example, … all those pathogens accumulate in the muscle,” Warriner said.
The most recent report of an outbreak of norovirus and gastrointestinal illness linked to raw oysters in British Columbia was in April 2022. A total of 339 confirmed cases of norovirus and gastrointestinal illness have been reported in Columbia -British, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. No deaths have been reported.
Warriner said the risk from oysters could also increase due to climate change.
“Climate change means warmer waters. (…) Vibrio can now grow and contaminate not only shellfish, but also seafood, and pathogens like salmonella… survive better when temperatures are warmer,” he explained.
How do sellers ensure oysters are safe?
According to Warriner, what is currently used in commercial shellfish farming facilities is high-pressure processing where oysters are subjected to high water pressure intended to kill pathogens.
The water in which the oysters are harvested is also tested for biotoxins, he added.
As the British Columbia Center for Disease Control explains, when biotoxin levels are high, harvesting areas and farms are closed. Shellfish processors check each batch of shellfish entering from an approved open area.
“There are technologies that could be used to make them safer,” Warriner added.
For example, he said there are sensors that could monitor the quality of the water the oysters are in constantly instead of taking samples only every now and then. He said all processing facilities in Canada should use them.
“We didn’t need it 30 years ago, but the world was different then,” Warriner said, adding that the impacts of climate change have only gotten worse.
How can Canadians avoid getting sick from raw oysters?
Warriner said there was no way to tell a contaminated oyster from one that wasn’t. But there are ways to ensure they are safe to eat.
He said Canadians should first and foremost buy oysters from a reputable supplier.
If oysters are very cheap, it’s usually for a reason.Keith Warriner, food scientist
To reduce the risk of getting sick, PHAC recommends people avoid eating raw or undercooked oysters.
It is suggested to cook them to an internal temperature of 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 90 seconds before eating.
The agency also advises consuming them immediately after cooking and refrigerating leftovers.
“Always store raw and cooked oysters separately to avoid cross-contamination,” PHAC added.
Canadians are also being asked to discard any oysters that have not opened during cooking.
“Wash your hands well with soap before and after handling food. Be sure to clean and disinfect cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods,” she notes. -he.
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