US woman loses limbs after battling infection from eating undercooked fish

Ms Laura Barajas underwent emergency surgery on Sept 13 after being hospitalised for over a month as she battled the infection. PHOTO: GOFUNDME

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.

“She almost lost her life. She was on a respirator,” Ms Messina told San Francisco Bay Area local news station Kron4.

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

Ms Messina believed the infection was caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had warned about on Sept 1.

According to the CDC, people can be infected with Vibrio vulnificus by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater.

About 150 to 200 cases of the infection are reported each year in the United States, and around one in five people with the infection die, the CDC added.

Ms Messina said she and Ms Barajas’ family are still trying to find out what happened, adding that she hoped people will realise how precious life can be. “Be thankful for what we have right now because it can be taken away so quickly, so easily,” she added.

Throughout her ordeal, Ms Barajas’ partner, Mr Jose Valdez, has been by her side.

Ms Messina has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her friend’s medical expenses. To date, more than US$35,000 (S$48,000) has been raised.

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