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Texas Woman Dies from ‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacteria after Eating Raw Oysters with Friends

When she developed rashes 36 hours later, they first thought it was a simple allergic reaction.

Each year millions of Americans enjoy raw oysters with a squeeze of lemon or perhaps a dash of hot sauce.  However, when eaten raw, this tasty mollusk poses certain health risks. Eating raw oysters is dangerous for certain groups of people because some raw oysters contain bacteria or viruses that can cause disease. A bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus that is in some oysters can cause severe illness and death in people with certain underlying medical conditions. One woman contracted the disease after eating several oysters—and died three weeks later.

Jeanette LeBlanc from Texas was reportedly crabbing with her friends and family on the Louisiana coast in September when she contracted the infection. LeBlanc and her friend Karen Bowers picked up some raw oysters in a Westwego market for a treat. The two women ate about two dozen raw oysters each before LeBlanc became ill, Bowers said.

Texas resident contracts flesh-eating bacteria from oysters in Louisiana — #RegionalNews

Posted by KTVE 10 KARD 14 myarklamiss on Thursday, January 4, 2018

36 hours later, LeBlanc developed rashes all over her legs, but they though it was a simple allergic reaction. “An allergic reaction of sorts, that’s what I would call it. That’s what we thought,” Bowers said.

Two days later, LeBlanc’s condition worsened, prompting LeBlanc’s family to bring her to the hospital. Doctors later informed her that she had vibrio. LeBlanc’s partner, Vicki Bergquist, explained vibrio as a “flesh-eating bacteria.” “She had severe wounds on her legs from that bacteria,” Bergquist said.

LeBlanc fought the infection for 21 days but lost the battle on Oct. 15, 2017. “I can’t even imagine going through that for 21 days. Most people don’t last,” said Bowers said.

“She was bigger than life,” Bergquist said. “She was a great person, laughed a lot, loved her family, loved her dad.”

Bowers and Bergquist said they were working on raising awareness of vibrio.

“If they really knew what could happen to them and they could literally die within 48, 36 hours of eating raw oysters, is it really worth it?” Bowers said. “If we had known that the risk was so high, I think she would’ve stopped eating oysters,” Bergquist said.

Most infections happen between May and October and common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, fever and chills. More severe infections can lead to death.

On a list of ‘common myths about raw oysters’, FDA explains that even an experienced oyster lover cannot tell a good oyster from a bad one. There is no change to the taste, odor, or appearance of seafood contaminated by Vibrio vulnificus, which creates a significant challenge for food safety officials and consumers who cannot rely on their senses to determine if an oyster is safe.


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