A 77-year-old woman died from flesh-eating bacteria that she contracted from the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey.
Nancy Reed was in her son’s Kingwood home – in the northeastern part of Houston – when she fell and cut her arm.
She died after the wound became infected and the bacteria spread throughout her body. Medical examiners in Harris County determined the floodwaters surrounding the home had flesh-eating bacteria that infected the wound.
Necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, infects surrounding tissue and kills it, which can lead to organ failure and eventually death.
There are 700 to 1110 cases in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nancy Reed, 77, died of necrotizing fasciitis in floodwaters around her son’s home. She fell and cut her arm, which allowed bacteria from Hurricane Harvey to go into the wound. The infection spreads quickly by causing death in tissues surrounding the area and organ failure
Hurricane Harvey hit at the end of August, but the disastrous floodwaters left behind hold dangerous bacteria for people who come in contact with them.
These bacteria can live on items and surfaces that were in contact with the water.
What is necrotizing fasciitis and how can it cause death
Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection that spreads quickly by killing 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 not stopped quickly enough.
- Pain or soreness
- Swelling near wound
- Ulcers, blisters or black spots
Strong antibiotics are imperative towards treating the disease. They are typically administrated through an IV.
Surgery is recommended when the antibiotics are unable to reach the tissue that has already been infected.
This is because the bacteria has prevented blood flow into those areas.
Surgeons will go in and remove areas that are infected.
If any of the infection is left in the body, it can cause organ failure and the patient will die.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Reed is the second known case of flesh-eating bacteria that was caused by the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey.
The first case was J.R. Atkins, a former firefighter and medic from Missouri City near Houston.
He contracted the infection from a bug bite on his arm when he was in the floodwaters attempting to save neighbors.
The small bite quickly grew by spreading deep into his tissues and bone, he said to Click 2 Houston.
Atkins survived the infection after recognizing the symptoms and going to Houston Methodist hospital to be treated.
Otherwise, he said he would have died from the infection.
But Reed wasn’t able to catch her infection in time. She fell ill after her wound became infected and died on September 15 at Memorial Hermann Hospital – Texas Medical Center.
‘It’s tragic,’ said Dr. David Persse, director of the city’s emergency medical services, to Chron.
‘This is one of the things we’d been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur. My heart goes out to the family.’
Necrotizing fasciitis comes in many bacterial forms.
If caught quickly enough, the bacterial infection can be halted with antibiotics that are administered through an IV.
But the infection can spread past the phase where antibiotics make an impact.
Instead, surgery is required to rid the body of the infected tissue.
If this doesn’t occur then organ failure will begin throughout the body and eventually cause death.
There have been 75 reported deaths statewide in Texas from Hurricane Harvey’s category 4 storm.
Floodwaters surround Houston homes on September 3, a week after Hurricane Harvey hit. These floodwaters can house dangerous bacteria such as necrotizing fasciitis. The bacteria can live on items and surfaces that have come in contact with the water