Woman dies from flesh-eating bacteria after eating raw oysters


Jeanette LeBlanc was visiting family on the Louisiana coast in September and had picked up a sack of oysters at a market after going crabbing with some friends, according to a report by KTVE-TV. During the trip, LeBlanc and her friend Karen Bowers shucked and ate about two dozen raw oysters, Bowers told CBS.

"About 36 hours later she started having extreme respiratory distress, had a rash on her legs and everything", Vickie Bergquist told KLFY.

People can become infected with the bacteria after eating raw or under-cooked shellfish or by exposing open wounds to brackish water, the CDC said, according to KLFY.

Those who ingest a certain strain of the bacteria, known as vibrio vulnificus, can get seriously ill and might need intensive care or limb amputation. But it's very rare: CDC estimates are that there are about 205 cases in the United States every year. Jeanette LeBlanc: rare flesh eating bacteria disease.

LeBlanc's friends and family are now raising awareness about vibriosis. Most people who contract Vibrio from raw oysters experience only diarrhea and vomiting, and those with these milder cases typically recover in about 3 days, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, the victim's family was at the wrong place at the wrong time. About 1 in 4 people with these serious infections die from the illness.

Food-poisoning experts have advised exercising caution while consuming raw oysters for years. LeBlanc was exposed to both of those things on the day she got sick. Hurricane floodwaters after Harvey resulted in at least one fatality from flesh-eating bacteria and there were several Vibrio deaths after Katrina. Most people don't last.

The CDC and other health departments have warned that the only way to kill bacteria is to properly cook oysters.

Outbreaks happen in the warmer months, from May to October.

The best way to avoid risk of infection is cooking the crustaceans, as raw or undercooked seafood increases the possibility of contracting the bacteria. Whether or not wading in partially salty water or eating raw seafood are worth the risk is an individual decision.