Earlier this month, Adrian Ruiz's Father’s Day getaway turned into a horror film plot after he contracted a life-threatening, flesh-eating bacterial infection from contaminated beach water. Thankfully, it does not look as though Ruiz, of Buda, Texas, will experience any lasting health complications from his infection, but the incident marks the second time in a month that a swimmer has contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection at a Texas beach.
After a day of fun in the sun at Port Aransas Beach, Ruiz, 42, complained of a headache and a rash on his leg. Over the next few days Ruiz’s symptoms worsened, and doctors diagnosed him with a Vibrio vulnificus infection. Vibrio vulnificus is a specific type of flesh-eating bacteria that individuals can become infected with by eating uncooked shellfish or swimming in contaminated waters with an open wound. According to the American Family Physician, Vibrio vulnificus infections are the leading cause of death related to seafood consumption in the United States.
Eventually Ruiz’s symptons worsened and doctors feared he might lose his leg, but thankfully the swelling has since gone down. Ruiz’s case is especially worrisome since it came only two weeks after Brian Parrott contracted a similar infection while swimming at a Texas beach. A few days after a trip to the beach with his family, Parrott, of Jacinto City, Texas, noticed that his leg had broken out in a rash with boils, People reported. Eventually, the infection became so bad that the 50-year-old grandfather needed to have part of his right leg amputated.
Luckily Ruiz’s condition seems to be improving and he will likely not need an amputation, but his wife told KXAN-TV that her family would never had gone swimming in the first place if they had known the risks.
“If we would have known that there was flesh-eating bacteria in the water, we wouldn’t have gotten in,” Ruiz’s wife Lashelle told KXAN-TV, vowing to swim only in freshwater from now on and avoid beachwater that could possibly be contaminated.
Flesh-eating bacteria, such as Vibrio vulnificus get their gory name due to the flesh-destroying neurotoxin they release in the body. The toxin kills any cells it comes into contact with, and if not treated quickly, it destroys entire limbs and appendages. The infections are usually treated with strong antibiotics first though, with amputation reserved as the last course of action.
Despite both Ruiz and Parrot contracting their infections within weeks of each other, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most cases of necrotizing fasciitis occur randomly and are not linked to similar infections in others. In addition, these infections are usually only extremely dangerous in individuals with weakened immune systems. According to the CDC, most people who get necrotizing fasciitis have other health problems that may lower their body's ability to fight infection. Some of these conditions include diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, or other chronic health conditions that weaken the body's immune system. Serious outcomes from Vibrio infections are rare: Of the about 80,000 Vibrio infections each year, there are only about 100 deaths.