Two major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have hit the South just about a week of apart from each other, leaving cities in Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean virtually under water. And not only do survivors of the storms have to worry about the damage to their homes and belongings, but they have to worry about the risk of a potentially deadly bacterial infection as well.
One first responder from Texas who was helping to rescue people around Houston from the floodwaters recently contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria that quickly spreads and destroys your tissue, after a mosquito bite near his wrist became infected.
Thanks to his training as a former firefighter and medic, J.R. Atkins noticed that the bite kept growing in size and realized there was definitely something wrong.
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“There was a small little tiny bite on Tuesday, a little tiny bite on me that by Tuesday night grew to about a nickel size,” Atkins told KPRC-TV in Houston. “The next morning, it had gone across the bone on the bottom side of my wrist and then like maybe four or five hours later it crossed the wrist and got into my hand and anytime the swell[ing] moves across the joint that’s…I’ve always told that’s been a bad thing.”
Atkins figured there was bacteria in the water that caused this to happen, so he immediately went to the emergency room at Houston Methodist hospital’s Sugar Land location, where nurses saw he was developing sepsis, your body’s toxic response to an infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, or death.
He had to undergo multiple operations to remove dead and infected tissue and was released from the hospital after five days.
“If it wouldn’t have been for the nurses here at Methodist, I probably would have not been able to make it through it. I mean, there’s no way I could have made it through it,” Atkins said.
Atkins is sharing his story to warn people that these floodwaters from the hurricanes may contain potentially life-threatening bacteria.
“I knew what I was getting into which is the scary thing. I was fully aware that this could happen,” he said. “What I would like people to understand is that I went out in storm water. I didn’t go out in sewage, and so if you look at what’s going on in Houston and you look at the drainage issues, there’s way worse stuff in there.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warning signs of necrotizing fasciitis include pain or soreness in the infected area that may be red or purple in color. Ulcers, blisters, or black spots can appear there as well. Fever, chills, vomiting, and fatigue are also common. If you think you have this bacterial infection, seek medical treatment immediately.
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