A 70-year-old woman nearly lost her hand after contracting flesh-eating bacteria while fishing with her husband on Alabama’s Gulf Coast last week. The unidentified woman reportedly reached into a bucket of live shrimp bait and pricked the back of her hand, though it was not clear if the infection was a result of the shrimp or the water they were fishing in that then entered the wound, Gulf Coast News Today reported.
The woman’s husband, whose name was also withheld, told the news outlet that her hand began to swell and she experienced fever, chills and headaches within three hours of getting cut. They drove back to Mississippi where she was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery, and has since spent more than 10 days recovering.
Vibrio bacteria live in certain coastal waters and typically thrive during warmer months. People can become infected by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, or when an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms may present as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chill with onset typically within 24 hours of ingestion. Infections in the bloodstream could prove fatal, with some strains of vibrio causing life-threatening circumstances that require intensive care or limb amputation.
Health officials are now investigating the waterways near the Fairhope pier where the couple was fishing. They are also looking into where the couple purchased the bait.