‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ From Harvey’s Floodwaters Kill a Woman

September 28, 2017

New York Times: From the moment the waters began rising in Texas last month, disease was on health officials’ minds. Floodwaters, after all, are filthy. When Hurricane Harvey finally moved north and the feet of flooding drained, hospitals saw a spike in skin and gastrointestinal infections, but Texans were spared some of the most serious illnesses that contaminated water can spread: cholera, for instance, and typhoid. On Tuesday, however, the Harris County medical examiner’s office announced that the death of a 77-year-old woman 11 days earlier had been caused by necrotizing fasciitis: a gruesome and often deadly infection commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. The woman, Nancy Reed, contracted the disease when she fell inside a flooded home in Houston’s Kingwood community and broke her arm, allowing bacteria from the floodwaters in through cuts. Hers was the 36th storm death recorded in Harris County. Charlotte Smith, an environmental health expert at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, is quoted.

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