A 31-year-old father has died after a flesh-eating disease ravaged his arm while he was rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Josue Zurita was killed by a severe bacterial infection called necrotizing fasciitis, which affects fewer than 20,000 people a year.
Health officials in Galveston County, Texas, where Zurita died said that he was most likely exposed to the bacteria by working in Harvey floodwaters or being around debris.
The infection attacked the upper portion of his left arm causing Zurita to go to the Jennie Sealy Hospital in Galveston on October 10. He passed away nearly a week later on October 16 in the hospital.
Texas health workers are cautioning people who are still participating in the Harvey clean up to properly care for their wounds to avoid a similar infection.
Josue Zurita, 31, passed away after contracting a deadly infection called necrotizing fasciitis
Zurita was repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey when he developed the infection, and health officials believe debris or floodwaters left behind in the storm caused it
Zurita’s obituary described him as a ‘loving father and a hard working carpenter’ and said that he moved to the United States from Mexico to provide support to his family.
The obituary said: ‘He will be remembered as a loyal friend and devoted Christian father who remained faithful to his Catholic Faith.’
A statement from the Galveston County Health District said that the disease that took Zurita’s life is not common.
County health official Dr Philip Keiser said: ‘This is a very rare infection, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking for this person’s family and friends.’
Hurricane Harvey destroyed thousands of Texas homes and killed more than 70 people
Zurita’s obituary said that he will be remembered as a ‘loving father and a hard working carpenter’
WHAT IS NECROTIZING FASCIITIS?
Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection that quickly kills surrounding tissue.
Once the bacteria enters the body, it can spread to the muscles, nerves, fat and blood cells around the infected site causing damage.
Death can occur if it is not stopped quickly enough.
- Pain or soreness
- Swelling near wound
- Ulcers, blisters or black spots
Strong antibiotics are imperative to treating the disease and are typically administrated through an IV.
Surgery is recommended when the antibiotics are unable to reach the tissue that has already been infected.
This happens when the bacteria has prevented blood flow to those areas.
If any of the infection is left in the body after surgery, it can cause organ failure and the patient will die.
Dr Keiser suspects that the bacteria infected Zurita via an injury. He said: ‘It’s most likely this person’s infection occurred when bacteria from Harvey debris or floodwater entered his body through a wound or cut.’
Necrotizing fasciitis spreads quickly and attacks the body’s soft tissue, and the illness can become deadly fast. Zurita is not the first victim of the infection triggered by the aftermath of Harvey.
A 77-year-old mother in Houston, Nancy Reed, was killed by necrotizing fasciitis after she fell and cut her arm at her son’s home and Harvey floodwaters infected her wound.
Additionally, J.R. Atkins, a former firefighter and medic from Missouri City, Texas, became infected by the bacteria which entered a bug bite on his arm.
Health officials are urging people who are located in places where Harvey struck to cover all exposed wounds thoroughly.
The statement announcing Zurita’s death said: ‘The Galveston County Health District (GCHD) reminds people working on Hurricane Harvey recovery projects to be aware of proper wound care following the death of a man from a rare infection.’
The CDC recommends keeping wounds that are open or draining covered by clean bandages until they are completely healed. The bandages need to be totally dry when they are applied to the wound.
Additionally, the agency warned not to put off care for wounds even if they are minor. Non-infected wounds such as blisters and scrapes are no exclusion.
If you have an open wound it is best to avoid bodies of water including lakes, oceans and rivers, and hot tubs and swimming pools as well.
Some people are more prone than others to necrotizing fasciitis. Health conditions that can affect the body’s ability to fight infection increase one’s risk.
These ailments include diabetes, cancer and kidney disease.