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Health officials dispute claims bacteria from fish caused San Jose woman's quadruple amputation

PIX Now Afternoon Edition 9-20-23
PIX Now Afternoon Edition 9-20-23 08:27

SAN JOSE – Health officials in Santa Clara County have cast doubts on reports that a bacterial infection blamed on fish eaten by a San Jose woman caused her to undergo a quadruple amputation.

Last week, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to support 40-year-old Laura Barajas. The friend who purportedly organized the fundraiser claimed Barajas had lost her limbs because she was infected by the "flesh-eating" bacteria vibrio after eating tilapia purchased from a San Jose supermarket in July.

The fundraiser has since gone viral, garnering national and international coverage. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 2,300 people have donated to the fundraiser, which has raised more than $111,000.

On Wednesday, the Santa Clara Department of Public Health issued a statement saying they had identified a woman matching the description of Barajas at a local hospital. The department also noted that hospitals are required by law to report vibrio infections.

"Preliminary information has now been received regarding this individual, confirming that no laboratory tests are positive for Vibrio. Several different diseases including but not limited to Vibrio can cause tragic clinical outcomes like this one," the department said in a statement to KPIX.  

Health officials said they are actively investigating to confirm if a cause of the woman's illness could be identified. The department said they have not identified any risks to the public.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, vibriosis causes 80,000 illnesses in the U.S. each year. The cause is often attributed to eating raw seafood, particularly oysters, along with exposing open wounds to salt water or brackish water.

Most people's cases are mild, with symptoms lasting about three days. Meanwhile, those who contract an infection from the species Vibrio vulnificus can get seriously ill.

"Many people with Vibrio vulnificus infection require intensive care or limb amputations, and about 1 in 5 people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill," the CDC said.

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