California woman’s limbs amputated; infection linked to fish: Report


A Northern California mother who reportedly ate undercooked fish from a San Jose market is now a quadruple amputee after likely contracting a bacterial infection from the food, her friend says.

Laura Barajas, 40, of San Jose, became ill after she bought fish from a local market in July, cooked it and ate it, her friend, Anna Messina, told Bay Area outlet KRON.

Messina said in an online fundraiser that Barajas, who has a 6-year-old son, was hospitalized and diagnosed with a vibrio vulnificus infection, which the CDC says can require amputations and sometimes lead to death within a day or two of becoming ill.

“She was on a respirator,” Messina told KRON. “They put her into a medically induced coma. Her fingers were black, her feet were black, her bottom lip was black. She had complete sepsis and her kidneys were failing.”

Messina told the outlet the fish her friend consumed was tilapia.

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Mother now a quadruple amputee

After being hospitalized for more than a month, her friend wrote in the online fundraiser, doctors removed both of the woman’s arms and legs on Sept. 13 “in order to save her life.”

“Find it in your hearts to support this beautiful family during this incredibly challenging time,” Messina wrote on the fundraising page. “What has happened to them could happen to any of us.”

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What is vibrio vulnificus?

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that can cause dangerous infections. It can come from undercooked seafood or byexposing a wound to seawater, according to the CDC. The infection can cause life-threatening wounds.

A majority of those infected by the illness require intensive care or limb amputations, the CDC reports, and about 1 in 5 people infected by it die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming sick.

Sometimes called a “flesh-eating bacteria,” symptoms often occur within 24 hours of eating raw or undercooked seafood, disease experts say.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms include fever, low blood pressure and painful blisters. The bacteria can lead to a severe form of vibriosis, which can cause sepsis and shock, experts say, and those who may have the illness should immediately visit an ER.

Tips to reduce risk of vibriosis

Reduce the risk of vibriosis by following these recommended CDC tips:

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after handing raw seafood.
  • If you have a wound stay out of sea water and brackish water. If you must enter water, cover the wound with a bandage.
  • If you have a wound exposed either of those types of water, wash wounds thoroughly.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a skin infection after coming into contact with seawater or brackish water.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior correspondent for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @nataliealund.

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