Within 36 hours of eating raw oysters while visiting family on the Louisiana coast, Jeanette LeBlanc of Texas developed respiratory problems and a severe rash on her legs, symptoms she and her friends associated with an allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, LeBlanc was suffering from vibrio, a flesh-eating bacteria that soon devastated LeBlanc’s health.
Texas residents Vicki Bergquist and wife Jeanette LeBlanc were visiting family in Louisiana.
Their friend Karen Bowers says both she and Jeanette shucked and ate about two dozen raw oysters.
[…] Jeanette’s condition went from bad to worse in the first 48 hours.
Doctors told Jeanette she had vibrio.
“It’s a flesh-eating bacteria. She had severe wounds on her legs from that bacteria,” her partner said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people become infected with vibrio after eating raw or under-cooked shellfish or by exposing open wounds to brackish water.
Jeanette had been in contact with both.
For the next 21 days, she fought for her life.
“I can’t even imagine going through that for 21 days, much less a day. Most people don’t last,” Bowers said.
[…] “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?” said Bowers.
“It we had known that the risk was so high, I think she would’ve stopped eating oysters,” Bergquist said.
LeBlanc passed in October, and Bowers and Bergquist say they’re now working on raising awareness about vibrio.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating raw oysters increases the risk of infection. Swimming in saltwater with an open wound can also increase the risk.
From the CDC website:
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish.
- Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
- Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there’s a possibility it could come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices. Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and sea water. It is often found where rivers meet the sea.
- Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.
- If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
Some Vibrio species, such as Vibrio vulnificus, can cause particularly severe and life-threatening infections. Many people with V. vulnificus infections require intensive care or limb amputations, and about a quarter of people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill.
According to the CDC, “Anyone can get sick from vibriosis,” but some people are more susceptible to infections.
You’re more susceptible to vibriosis infection if you:
- Take medicine to decrease stomach acid levels
- Have liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, or thalassemia
- Receive immune-suppressing therapy for the treatment of disease
- Have had recent stomach surgery
Our health isn’t worth risking for some raw shellfish.
Stay safe and cook your food.