Indiana Man Hospitalized With Flesh-eating Bacteria After Eating Raw Oysters

An Indiana man was put on life support after catching so-called flesh eating bacteria from raw oysters.

Patrick Baker, 50, experienced flu-like symptoms around one to two days after he bought oysters at a store and ate them at home, his family told The Herald Bulletin. Purple blisters appeared on his legs and he experienced what felt like growing pains. His temperature rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (F).

Worried by his condition, his wife told him to go to the emergency room. Baker was diagnosed with a type of infection called necrotizing fasciitis, caused by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, which are commonly referred to as "flesh-eating." Necrotizing fasciitis can cause the skin around a wound to die off as if it's being eaten. Baker caught the infection from sea water.

He was transferred to an intensive care unit in Indianapolis, and then put on life support for three weeks until August 2. He has had emergency surgery in both his legs to remove the infection, and has since been moved from intensive care. Next, he will need to have procedures including skin grafts.

Debbie Huffman, Baker's mother-in-law, told The Herald Bulletin: "If the infection had spread up to his abdomen, he would have died... He'll go back into surgery as time goes on, and they'll debris his dead skin."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vibrio vulnificus kills about one in five people it infects. This can happen within a day or two of them falling ill. Many people with the infection need to have their limbs amputated and receive intensive care treatment.

A person can get an infection from the Vibrio family of bacteria from seafood, including raw or undercooked oysters. It can also get inside an open wound if it comes into contact with "raw or undercooked seafood, its juices, or its drippings or with saltwater or brackish water," the CDC states on its website.

Symptoms of a Vibrio vulnificus infection include watery diarrhea, often alongside stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and a fever. An infection of the blood by the bacteria can trigger chills, fever, low blood pressure and blistered skin. If a wound becomes infected, the person may experience fever, and the site can become red, painful swollen, warm to the touch, and discolored. It may also leak fluid.

Doctors told Baker's family he may not need to amputate his legs if he continues to recover well.

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A stock image shows a raw oyster. An Indiana man has been hospitalized after catching a life-threatening infection from a raw oyster. Getty Images