BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A woman’s crabbing trip in Louisiana turned tragic after she died from a flesh-eating bacterial infection health officials say came from eating raw oysters.
Jeanette LeBlanc of Texas reportedly purchased a sack of raw oysters in Westwego, Louisiana during a family vacation in September. The woman’s wife told local reporters that the trouble started after LeBlanc ate about two dozen of the oysters.
“About 36 hours later she started having extreme respiratory distress, had a rash on her legs and everything,” Vicki Bergquist told KLFY.
The woman’s condition got even worse over the next two days and doctors determined that LeBlanc had been infected with vibrio.
“It’s a flesh-eating bacteria. She had severe wounds on her legs from that bacteria,” Bergquist added.
According to the CDC, the victim’s family was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Vibrio bacteria naturally live in certain coastal waters and are present in higher concentrations between May and October when water temperatures are warmer,” according to the CDC’s description.
About 80,000 cases of vibriosis are diagnosed in the United States each year with most of the illnesses coming from eating raw shellfish. While most cases are mild and patients recover within three days, much more serious forms of the infection can put victims in intensive care or result in limb amputation. A quarter of patients with the severe form of the illness die.
Jeanette LeBlanc died on Oct. 15, 2017 after battling the infection for three weeks.
“I can’t even imagine going through that for 21 days, much less a day,” family friend Karen Bowers added. “If they really knew what could happen to them and they could literally die within 48, 36 hours of eating raw oysters, is it really worth it?”
“If we had known that the risk was so high, I think she would’ve stopped eating oysters,” LeBlanc’s partner said.
While eating raw oysters is commonplace and the risk is low, it is not negligible. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a page on their website devoted to myths associated with raw oysters and the vibrio bacteria that can be contracted as a result.
The FDA points out that vibrio in oysters has no scent, cannot be killed by hot sauce or alcohol, and can contaminate oysters in any month — not just summer months when temperatures are warmer; although the disease is more commonly found then, as noted by the CDC as well.