A 31-year-old Texas man died after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria through a new tattoo on his leg.
The man had a leg tattoo completed five days before swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, where vibrio vulnificus, a potentially deadly bacteria, is often found in warmer months, according to a report on his case published in the British Medical Journal. The CDC estimates there are 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the U.S. each year from Vibrio bacteria. and Vibrio vulnificus is one of the most common bacteria to cause human illness.
Experts warn people to avoid going into the water with open wounds or cuts, which can allow the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria to enter the body. Likewise, people with new tattoos are often advised to avoid soaking in water or swimming until the tattoo has time to heal.
Three days after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, the man, who was not identified in the case study, checked in at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with pain in his legs, CNN reported.
"Very quickly, over a couple of hours, it began to get more discolored, more bruised and had large blisters that began to form, which was certainly alarming to us as it was to him," said Dr. Nicholas Hendren, lead author of the report.
He was aggressively treated for weeks and largely sedated, but ultimately died of septic shock about two months after he was first admitted to the hospital.
According to the report, the patient had chronic liver disease which may have made him more susceptible to the infection.
"Health providers should remain vigilant for V. vulnificus infections in patients with chronic liver disease and raw oyster ingestion or seawater exposure," the report concluded.