A fundraiser for the woman, Laura Barajas, 40, raised more than $110,000 after international media attention
SAN JOSE, Calif. — On Wednesday, health officials refuted claims that a San Jose woman contracted a flesh-eating virus, necessitating amputations of all four of her limbs. Amputation four times. that a San Jose woman who required quadruple amputation had contracted a flesh-eating bacterial infection after eating fish purchased at a nearby supermarket.
According to a GoFundMe fundraiser that received international attention, Laura Barajas, 40, was forced to undergo quadruple amputation surgery last week after contracting Vibrio, a bacterial infection, from eating fish she bought at a local market. The fundraiser, which was posted on Friday, quickly went viral, garnering coverage in People Magazine, the Daily Mail, USA Today, and Page Six. The fundraiser had raised more than $110,000 as of Wednesday evening.
County health officials said in a statement that they were able to identify a hospitalized patient matching the description in media reports Tuesday, and that they have asked hospital staff to notify the department if there is any suspicion of any disease that they are legally required to report.
“Preliminary information regarding this individual has now been received, confirming that no laboratory tests for Vibrio are positive.” Several diseases, including but not limited to Vibrio, can result in tragic clinical outcomes such as this one, according to the agency. “Public Health is actively investigating to confirm whether a cause of this illness can be identified.”
Officials from the county and the state Department of Public Health both confirmed that no Vibrio vulnificus infections had been reported to their respective agencies. All Vibrio infections in Santa Clara County must be reported by medical providers within one business day of diagnosis.
According to the department, there was no indication of a wider risk to public health as of Wednesday.
The precise cause of Barajas’ illness – and the reported amputation of all four of her limbs – is unknown. The county health department stated on Wednesday that no other threats to public safety had been identified.
The organizer of the page, Anna Messina, told this news organization in a text message that she based the description on a “initial diagnosis” of Barajas’ condition that was relayed to her, but that she had not received any updates from the family.
Attempts to contact the Barajas family on Wednesday were futile.
Infections with Vibrio vulnificus are becoming more common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to healthcare professionals about the increase earlier this month on Sept. 1, attributing it in part to rising ocean temperatures. According to the CDC, the bacteria thrives in warmer waters, primarily on the coasts of Gulf Coast states between the months of May and October.
The bacteria is primarily transmitted when an open wound comes into contact with the water where the bacteria lives, though it is contracted in about 10% of cases through consumption.
Dr. Stanley Deresinski, a clinical professor of medicine at Stanford Health Care who specializes in infectious diseases, believes the bacteria’s prevalence will only increase as climate change continues.
“The number of cases has been increasing, and climate change is most likely contributing,” he said.
According to Deresinski, the bacteria is most commonly contracted through consumption of shellfish, but it has been shown to spread in fish through aqua-farms. Waterborne bacteria can spread quickly when fish are packed in a tight, contained body of water for the purpose of farming for human consumption.
“To some extent, they’re all exposed to the same water,” he explained. “There would be a lot of infected fish.”
Amputation is required in the most severe cases.
“When the vibrio vulnificus is ingested, it can quickly invade the body and cause systemic illness in the patient,” Deresinski said. “As the organism spreads through the body, complications may arise, including the loss of limbs.”
The GoFundMe page for Barajas was still active as of Wednesday, and the description of her condition had not changed.
“This family is in desperate need of our assistance.” “While Jose has health benefits through his job, it is unclear whether they will cover Laura, his partner of eight years,” according to the post. “The mounting hospital bills are overwhelming, and Laura’s physical condition will necessitate significant changes in their lives as they adapt to her new circumstances.”
GoFundMe did not respond immediately to a request for comment.