USA: Tilapia fish vibrio warning after mum loses all four limbs

Monday, 18 September 2023 - 21:30

An American mother of one lost all four of her limbs after suffering a bacterial infection from eating what was believed to be undercooked tilapia fish.

Ms Laura Barajas, 40, from San Jose, California, underwent emergency surgery last Wednesday after being hospitalised for over a month as she battled the infection. She is now a quadruple amputee.

Ms Barajas, the mother of a six-year-old boy, became ill days after she cooked and ate a fish she bought from a local market in late July, according to her friend, Ms Anna Messina.

Laura Barajas contracted a bacterial infection from undercooking tilapia fish in late July. On Thursday, she was forced to undergo a life-saving amputation surgery after spending months in hospital battling the deadly infection. The mum nearly lost her life when she cooked and ate the fish herself, a friend said. "It's just been really heavy on all of us," Anna Messina said to News 19.

She continued: "It's terrible This could've happened to any of us... she almost lost her life. She was on a respirator."

Laura contracted sepsis after purchasing the fish at a local market in San Jose, California. She is now left with life-changing amputations as she looks to the future with her six-year-old son.

Tilapia is generally safe if it is prepared properly. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even lists it among its 'best choices' for keeping mercury consumption low and providing nutrients like vitamin B12 and protein.

"When farms raise the tilapia in proper conditions, they are safe to eat," Medical News Today said. "People should be sure to store it properly and cook it thoroughly before eating."

The infection that caused serious problems for Barajas was likely caused by eating tilapia infected with a strain of vibrio vulnificus. Its side effects were nearly fatal.

"They put her into a medically induced coma. Her fingers were black, her feet were black, and her bottom lip was black. She had complete sepsis, and her kidneys were failing," Ms Messina added.

"The ways you can get infected with this bacteria are, one, you can eat something that's contaminated with it [and] the other way is by having a cut or tattoo exposed to water in which this bug lives," UCSF Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Natasha Spottiswoode told KRON.

Earlier this year, three people across New York and Connecticut died from infections this summer linked to vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria is found in seawater or raw shellfish, according to the Department of Public Health.

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