A Texas woman who spent a day along the Louisiana coast crabbing with friends and enjoying oysters found herself fighting for her life just 36 hours later.
Jeanette LeBlanc contracted a deadly flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio that day, resulting in her death a few weeks later.
LeBlanc’s symptoms started out similar to an allergic reaction. In fact, that’s what she suspected it was before doctors told her otherwise. She had red patches of a rash on her legs and experienced respiratory issues before the symptoms worsened.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the bacteria that causes Vibriosis creates 80,000 cases of illness in the United States each year and 100 deaths. The Vibrio bacteria live in coastal waters, those where oysters also live. The oysters contract the bacteria by filtering water to feed and the bacteria ends up in the tissues of the oyster, then when someone like LeBlanc eats it raw, they also contract the bacteria.
For the most part, people who contract Vibrio experience diarrhea and vomiting, but in some instances, the bacteria can cause bloodstream infections and blistering skin infections, said the CDC.
Vibriosis caused by the bacteria can also be contracted through the exposure of an open wound to brackish or salt water, or ocean water that’s mixed with freshwater, commonly found where rivers meet seas.
More people get sick from the bacteria between the months of May and October when waters are warmer, but it can happen at any time of the year, and people with compromised immune systems are more at risk.