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Widow issues warning after spouse dies of flesh-eating bacteria from raw oysters

Woman dies from flesh-eating bacteria
Woman dies from flesh-eating bacteria 01:08

DALLAS -- A North Texas widow has words of caution for some seafood lovers: stay away from raw oysters, CBS DFW reports. "Don't eat raw oysters, period, ever ... because you can for sure die," said Vicki Berquist. "And they should say that on menus." 

The warning comes after Berquist's wife, Jeanette LeBlanc, died after she contracted flesh-eating bacteria from oysters

The two were in Louisiana in September when they bought a bag of fresh oysters from a seafood market after going crabbing with some friends. LeBlanc ate some of them.

Berquist had to go somewhere that night, but when she returned the next day she says LeBlanc was already in extreme respiratory distress and had a rash on her legs. Berquist rushed LeBlanc to a hospital an hour away in Baton Rouge where she was diagnosed with vibrio and put on antibiotics.

Her skin blistered and she had wounds on her tongue. Doctors worked for nearly 36 hours straight trying to stabilize her.

"But the bacteria is so aggressive it kills the kidneys. They had to start her on dialysis," said Berquist. "It really worked on her liver and did a lot of damage. It really, really wracked her body."

Berquist said that two weeks into her struggle, LeBlanc had the first of three surgeries to remove dead tissue caused by the bacteria.

"After the first, she did OK," said Berquist. "After the second she struggled a little bit. But after the third surgery she never really rallied back. It was just too much."

LeBlanc died 21 days later on October 15.

Jeanette LeBlanc died after eating raw oysters while visiting family and friends on the coast of Louisiana KLFY-TV

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vibrio causes 80,000 illnesses every year in the United States. Most people will develop food poisoning symptoms and recover. But those with compromised systems -- LeBlanc, for example, had gastric bypass, which affected her digestion -- are most at risk.

According to the CDC, people can become infected with vibrio after eating raw or undercooked shellfish or by exposing open wounds to brackish water. LeBlanc had been in contact with both.

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