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California woman loses limbs after battling bacterial infection caused by tilapia


(KRON) — There is a warning about dangerous bacteria that may have infected a California woman who is still recovering after nearly two months in the hospital. An online fundraising campaign says she contracted the bacterial infection after eating fish and is now a quadruple amputee.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a warning about a bacterial infection that people can get from eating raw or undercooked fish or exposing an open wound to coastal waters.

Laura Barajas, 40, had a limb amputated while battling a bacterial infection. Barajas’ friend told KRON that she likely contracted the infection after eating undercooked tilapia.

“This has been very heavy on all of us. It’s terrible. This could have happened to any of us,” said Barajas’ friend Anna Messina.

Messina said that in late July, Barajas bought tilapia at a local market for dinner. She cooked it and ate it alone. A few days later, she became very ill and was subsequently hospitalized.

“She almost lost her life. She was on a ventilator,” Messina said. “They put her in a medically induced coma. His fingers were black, his feet were black, his lower lip was black. She suffered from complete sepsis and her kidneys were failing.

Today, a month and a half later, Barajas has no arms or legs.

Messina believes the infection was caused by vibrio vulnificus, a bacterial infection that the CDC has warned about.

“There is only one way to become infected with this bacteria: you can eat something contaminated with it, the other way is to have a cut or tattoo exposed to the water in which it lives this bacteria,” said Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode, an infectious disease expert at UCSF. .

Spottiswoode says the bacteria is of particular concern for people who are immunocompromised.

The CDC says about 150 to 200 cases of infection are reported each year, and about one in five infected people die — sometimes within one to two days of getting sick.

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“People should take reasonable precautions, for example if you have a cut, avoid submerging yourself in water until it is well healed,” Spottiswoode said. “If you are an immunocompromised person, watch for these things and avoid high-risk activities and foods.”

Messina says she and Barajas’ family are still waiting to learn more about what happened. She hopes people realize how precious life can be.

“Be grateful for what we have right now, because it can be taken away so quickly and so easily,” Messina said.

Messina created a GoFundMe to help cover her friend’s medical expenses. So far, more than $20,000 has been raised.

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