Gulf Coast Bacteria Causes Margaret Freiwald To Lose Her Leg; What Is Vibrio Vulnificus?

Margaret Freiwald
Margaret Freiwald has her leg amputated after encountering a "rare, but underreported cause of disease" rooted in Gulf Coast bacteria. CNN

Margaret Freiwald, 84, landed in the intensive care unit of Naples Community Hospital following a family outing in the waters of the Gulf Coast. Doctors from the hospital say bacteria found in the Gulf led to the woman's aggressive infection, which called for amputation, NBC 2 reported.

Freiwald is expected to pull through from her harrowing experience, but may also have to take heart medication for the rest of her life. Margaret's daughter Amber Casteman said that vibrio vulnificus "attacked all of her organs. She was suffering kidney failure. She had a heart attack."

The disturbing incident started when Freiwald cut her leg while getting back into a boat the family was vacationing with in Hernando County. She decided to tough it out and continue her vacation with her partner Walter Lettau; however, the trip was cut short three days later when Freiwald was hospitalized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vibrio vulnificus is a rare cause of disease. but is also underreported. Over 900 cases of the infection were received by the CDC between 1988 and 2006.

Out of around 50 lab-confirmed cases in the Gulf Coast each year, 45 require hospitalization and 16 end in death. Vibrio vulnificus thrives in warm saltwater and can be contracted by eating contaminated seafood.

People with compromised immune systems, such as patients with chronic liver disease, are at a higher risk of being infected. Casteman reported that arthritis was her mother's only preexisting illness. Infections can become life-threatening when they enter the bloodstream. The results could include a fever and chills, decreased blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions.

Casteman and Freiwald's doctors say that she is currently recovering under hospital care. Casteman hopes that her mother's situation serves as a wake-up call for the public.

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