American Oceans

Doctors Amputate Woman’s Limbs Due to Infection From Tilapia

a pile of raw tilapia

A San Jose woman, Laura Barajas, has had all of her limbs amputated after contracting a bacterial infection. She likely got the infection after eating undercooked tilapia bought from a local market. Within days of eating the fish, she became very ill and was hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a warning about a bacterial infection that people can get by eating raw or undercooked fish or by exposing an open wound to coastal waters.

Barajas was put into a medically induced coma, and her fingers, feet, and bottom lip turned black. She had complete sepsis, and her kidneys were failing. She was on a respirator, and doctors had to amputate all of her limbs. Her friend, Anna Messina, believes the infection was caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterial infection that the CDC has been warning about. The bacteria is especially concerning for people who are immunocompromised.

The CDC says about 150-200 cases of the infections are reported each year and about one in five people with the infection die, sometimes within one to two days of becoming ill. The ways to get infected with this bacteria are eating something contaminated with it or having a cut or tattoo exposed to water in which this bug lives.

UCSF Infectious Disease Expert, Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode, says the bacteria is especially concerning for people who are immunocompromised. She advises people to take sensible precautions like avoiding getting immersed in water until a cut is well healed and avoiding high-risk activities and foods if they are immunocompromised.

Messina set up a GoFundMe to help with her friend’s medical expenses, and it has raised more than $95,000. Barajas’ case highlights the importance of being careful when eating fish and being aware of the risks of bacterial infections.

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