A Texas woman contracted a fatal infection with flesh-eating bacteria after consuming raw oysters.
Jeanette LeBlanc and her wife Vicki Bergquist went crabbing on the Louisiana coast with friends and family in September 2017, according to Fox News. During the trip, Jeanette and their friend Karen Bowers had shucked and ate about two dozen raw oysters.
That's when LeBlanc's health began to decline.
About 36 hours later, LeBlanc experienced respiratory problems and developed a rash on her legs that resembled an allergic reaction of sorts, Bowers told KLFY. Two days later, after LeBlanc's health worsened, doctors said she was infected with a flesh-eating bacteria called vibrio.
Vibrio bacteria live in coastal waters and are found in higher concentrations between May and October, when temperatures are warmer, according to the CDC.
Most people contract vibrio infections after consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, specifically oysters. According to the CDC, vibriosis causes 80,000 illnesses each year in the U.S. Most people with mild cases of vibriosis experience diarrhea, cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.
However, in mild cases, the symptoms usually last about three days and do not necessarily require treatment. Patients are directed to drink plenty of liquids to replenish fluids lost through diarrhea, the CDC says. But people with severe cases can get seriously ill and require intensive care or even limb amputation if the bacteria come in contact with a cut or open wound.
Infections typically occur in people with weakened or compromised immune systems; about one in four people with serious infections dies from the illness.
The CDC suggests reducing your risk of vibriosis by cooking oysters or other shellfish before eating and to stay out of brackish water, especially if you have cuts or scrapes. LeBlanc was exposed to both.
She battled the infection for 21 days and died on Oct. 15, 2017. Both Bergquist and Bowers told KLFY that if LeBlanc knew the risks, she would have stopped eating oysters.
Now, they are both raising awareness about vibrio infections.
Many people enjoy eating oysters and other shellfish raw. It's important to wash your hands after handling raw shellfish and maintain refrigeration of oysters to reduce the growth of vibrio bacteria.