Dad Loses Part of His Intestines to 'Rare' Infection After Eating Oysters

A father from Kentucky underwent nine surgeries after falling severely ill from eating oysters while on a family trip to Boston.

Chris Thurman developed a bacterial infection, assumed by doctors to be from consuming seafood carrying the bacteria. After falling ill, doctors were forced to remove part of his intestines and place him on a ventilator.

New England is known for its fresh seafood, thanks to its close proximity to the Atlantic coastline, and it was one of the first times the family had even eaten oysters. "We had them for the first time this spring," wife Amanda Thurman told WCVB. "He was like 'I can't wait to get good oysters.'"

Oysters
Stock image of fresh oysters. Getty Images

Unfortunately, the fresh seafood resulted in a nasty outcome, with Chris Thurman being hospitalized after waking up with a bulging and swollen stomach on July 6. "The morning of the 6th, which is actually our anniversary, Chris woke up super, super sick," Amanda Thurman told WCVB.

Chris Thurman was rushed to Tufts Medical Center in Boston and doctors soon concluded that he had vibrio, a rare bacterial infection. It's hard for medical experts to be certain, but they reportedly believe it likely to be from oysters.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, vibriosis is an intestinal disease caused by the bacteria vibrio, which is found in fish and shellfish living in saltwater, and rivers and streams where freshwater meets saltwater.

The most common route of infection is by eating raw seafood, especially oysters. The bacteria can also cause skin infections if an open wound is exposed to saltwater.

"Vibrio bacteria naturally inhabit coastal waters where oysters live. Because oysters feed by filtering water, bacteria can concentrate in their tissues. When someone eats raw or undercooked oysters, viruses or bacteria that may be in the oyster can cause illness," reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to statistics by the CDC, vibriosis causes around 80,000 illnesses each year, 52,000 of which are caused by contaminated food. It's impossible to tell which fish are contaminated and which aren't before consumption.

Most infections cause mild symptoms, but some caused by certain strains can lead to more severe illnesses.

"They said it's super, super rare," Amanda Thurman told WCVB. "Vibrio itself is common, but this particular strain they haven't seen to make anyone that sick."

After nine surgeries and a fortnight in hospital, things appear to be looking up. "They were able to extubate him and he immediately started talking and asking for us, so today's a good day," she said.

The Kentucky family ate oysters at three different restaurants during their trip and so the health department is now attempting to work out where the infection may have come from.

Despite the trip turning into somewhat of a nightmare, the family's view of Boston is not tainted, as they sing the praises of those who have helped, including a therapy dog for the children.

Newsweek has contacted the Boston Health Division for comment.