A 77-year-old Texas woman who fell at home while wading through flood water from Hurricane Harvey died of an infection by flesh-eating bacteria, said The Houston Chronicle on Wednesday.
The Harris County medical examiner’s office ruled that Nancy Reed of Kingwood died on Sep. 15 of “flood-related necrotizing fasciitis.” She was the second known patient who contracted the disease during the disaster.
Rescuer J. R. Atkins — a former firefighter and paramedic — caught the bacteria through an insect bite that came into contact with contaminated water during his efforts to assist neighbors in Missouri City, TX. Atkins, however, survived.
Reed was in her son’s home, according to a family friend, when she fell in flood water, breaking her arm and cutting the skin. She was taken to Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital Woodlands for treatment when the injury became infected, complicating the healing of the broken bone.
When the infection proved difficult to control, Reed was transferred to Memorial Hermann Hospital – Texas Medical Center where she died on Sep. 15, becoming the 36th death in Houston to be linked to Hurricane Harvey. More than 75 people died statewide in the hurricane and its aftermath, said the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial skin infection that afflicts muscles and connective tissues, then spreads throughout the body, leading to organ failure and death if left untreated.
Treatment commonly takes the form of aggressive antibiotic therapy. Most fresh-water infections of necrotizing fasciitis are streptococcal-related or polymicrobial, whereas in salt water, the disease is associated with Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.
Early tests of Harvey’s floodwaters by Houston scientists showed unprecedented levels of harmful bacteria and heavy metals.
“I’ve never seen numbers this large,” said one water inspector to CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen.