Flesh-eating disease kills man who was repairing Harvey-flooded homes

- A flesh-eating disease has killed a man who was repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey flooding, the Galveston County Health District announced.

The 31-year-old Galveston resident went to the hospital on October 10 with a seriously infected wound on his upper left arm. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that kills soft tissue, and died on October 16, according to the Galveston County Health District.

"It's most likely this person's infection occurred when bacteria from Harvey debris or floodwater entered his body through a wound or cut," Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County Local Health Authority, said in a press release. "This is a very rare infection but that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking for this person's family and friends."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with strong immune systems who practice good hygiene and proper wound care have a low chance of getting necrotizing fasciitis. The Galveston County Health District is reminding people working on Hurricane Harvey recovery projects to take proper care of wounds to avoid further infections. The department adds that this particular infection was not related to Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria naturally found in beach water.

People with wounds or cuts should:

  • Keep open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed.
  • Don't delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds (like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin).
  • Avoid contact with natural bodies of water (lakes, rivers, oceans) if you have an open wound or skin infection.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if washing is not possible.
  • Seek medical attention for redness, swelling or fever.

This is the only known case of necrotizing fasciitis in Galveston County related to Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey slammed into Texas on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, but brought the worst flooding to Houston and other areas as a tropical storm. The rain totaled nearly 52 inches (1.3 meters) in some spots.

The storm has led to the death of more than 70 people. 

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