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Man Dies From Flesh-Eating Bacteria In Hurricane Harvey Floodwaters

Hurricane Harvey’s effects continue to be felt, two months after making landfall in Texas. Flesh-eating bacteria from the floodwaters have been making people ill, and led to yet another fatality.

A 31-year-old man who helped repair homes damaged by the hurricane died last week after rare, flesh-eating bacteria infected him. Identified as Josue Zurita, the man was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, CNN reports.

Zurita went to the hospital on October 10 with a severe wound on his upper left arm, and was diagnosed. An obituary at the Carnes Brothers Funeral Homes based in Galveston called Zurita a “loving father and hard-working carpenter.” Zurita had moved to the United States from Mexico to help his family and “remained to help with the rebuilding after hurricane Harvey.”

His death follows that of Nancy Reed, a 77-year-old woman in Houston who died in September after suffering from necrotizing fasciitis related to Hurricane Harvey floodwaters.

J.R. Atkins, a former first responder, was likewise infected with flesh-eating bacteria, but survived. He had been kayaking through the floods to check on neighbors, according to a Facebook post back in September.

Dr. Philip Keiser, the Galveston County local health authority, said,

We’re surprised we saw three of them in the region, but given the exposure to all the construction and potential injuries that people would have…it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s well within what we would expect given those numbers.

However, these are very rare cases, Keiser added. Since 2010, there have been only around 700 to 1,100 confirmed cases in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are several types of bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis. Infections spread quickly through the body, killing soft tissues, especially where there are open wounds. It becomes deadly in just a short amount of time.

Keiser said, “What happens is, you get some kind of break in the skin, and in that area — between the skin and the muscle — it’s a fairly open space where the bacteria can grow.”

Proper wound treatment is the key to preventing infections like these, Keiser and the CDC advise. Keep open wounds covered until they heal, especially when in the vicinity of floodwaters, and avoid contact with natural bodies of water.

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