News Feature | August 7, 2017

Water-Borne, Flesh-Eating Bacteria Strikes Grandmother

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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A grandmother appears to have contracted a flesh-eating bacteria while vacationing in South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach last month.

“According to the grandaughter, the woman cut herself on a chair at their hotel. The cut was not serious so she chose not to get it checked out. In the days following the cut, the family, who do not want to be publicly identified, say the grandmother spent time in the ocean,” KCRA reported, citing WMBF News.

“As the family began their journey home, that’s when they say the grandmother’s condition worsened. Her blood pressure began to drop and her leg became purple and was covered in blisters,” the report said.

Myrtle Beach officials said they are investigating the claim in a Facebook post. They said they did not receive an incident report.

“Our ocean water quality is tested twice weekly, with excellent results. If we can determine where such contact may have occurred, we can order additional water quality tests to determine whether any connection exists,” the post said.

The news report said the grandmother wound up being admitted into a hospital for treatment.

The incident originally gained attention after the family posted gruesome photos of the grandmother to Facebook. The post described the incident.

Ars Technica explained: “The case came to light following a viral Facebook post Sunday by Fetterman’s daughter, Marsha Barnes Beal. In the post, Beal reported that her mother was in stable condition at University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill after being airlifted and admitted to the intensive care unit there. Asking for prayers, Beal said doctors were preparing to cut away the infected flesh from her leg to try to salvage the limb.”

Florida officials warned residents about bacteria known as Vibrio vulnificus, which thrives in warm saltwater and is informally referred to as “flesh-eating,” though Florida officials have taken issue with news reports characterizing the bacteria that way. Mara Burger, press secretary with the Florida Department of Health, explained this to Santa Rosa’s Press Gazette in 2015.

Vibrio vulnificus is not a flesh-eating bacteria. Vibrio vulnificus infections, if left untreated, can lead to a serious complication where the body’s affected soft tissues are damaged,” she said. “This complication is known as necrotizing fasciitis.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Hospital de la Cruz Roja de Vigo," Contando Estrelas © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: