A 70-year-old woman lost parts of her hand and arm after contracting a flesh eating bacteria while fishing with her husband off of Alabama’s Gulf Coast last week.
The woman, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, first became ill after she reached into a bucket of live shrimp bait and pricked the back of her hand.
Three hours later she was “deathly sick,” her husband told Gulf Coast News Today.
The woman’s hand swelled, and she experienced a fever, chills and headaches, according to the report.
The couple checked into the emergency room where the woman had surgery on her hand.
“They removed a lot of tissue from her hand and forearm,” her husband told the media outlet.
A culture showed that the woman had contracted vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria that thrives in warm water, and among shellfish and shrimp.
The woman underwent two surgeries, and is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery.
“With all things considered, when you look at the statistics, the doctors keep telling us she’s a miracle,” her husband told Gulf Coast News Today. “Most people either die or lose a limb,” he said.
It remains unclear where the woman came into contact with the bacteria. She didn’t swim but had reached into the water to pull her catch out of Mobile Bay.
“This could have been with the shellfish, we don’t know where she obtained the bait, there are a lot of questions to ask and we certainly want to look into it,” Dr. Karen Landers of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases told the Gulf Coast News Today.
Last month, a Texas man with chronic liver disease died after contracting the same bacteria while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
He entered the water with a fresh tattoo and died months later.
Landers warned people with weakened immune systems of their heightened risk for bacterial infection.
“If you have a situation that weakens your immune system or you have existing cuts or abrasions be aware that does raise your risk of a bacterial infection,” she said.
“We recognize we are seeing a little more of this and we’re not sure what the reason is but we have to be aware.”
The couple expressed they’re still fans of Fairhope, the seaside city where the incident occurred.
“We love this area,” the man said. “It was just a freak thing.”