San Jose mother undergoes full limb amputation after contracting rare bacterial infection

A 40-year-old mother in San Jose is recovering after contracting a bacterial infection from eating fish she cooked at home. 

After becoming severely ill, Laura Barajas had to have all of her limbs amputated to save her life.  

A family spokesperson told KTVU they’re not ready to talk about it, but they wanted the public to know about this rare case of bacterial infection.   

"When it occurs, it can be devastating," said Dr. John Swartzberg, UC Berkeley School of Public Health. 

Family friend Anna Messina created a GoFundMe page late last week, detailing what happened to Barajas. 

The post says Barajas bought fish from a grocery store in San Jose and cooked it herself. 

The next day she was admitted to a local hospital and diagnosed with Vibrio Vulnificus, a bacterial infection.  

"About 20% of people who get really sick from it, die. So, it’s nothing to laugh at, at all but fortunately, it’s not common," Swartzberg said, adding he has no connection to Barajas' case.  

Barajas has been hospitalized for over a month, and ultimately had the amputation surgery on Sept. 13.  

"Generally speaking, the reason somebody has to have a limb amputated is that there’s no longer viable tissue. You’re no longer getting blood to that extremity. So, no matter what you do, the tissue is dead," Swartzberg said.   

On Sept. 1, the CDC issued a health advisory about Vibrio Vulnificus. 

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It says about 200 people a year get a Vibrio infection, experiencing diarrhea, stomach cramping, vomiting, chills and fever. The bacteria mainly live in salt waters on the East Coast and can be contracted through an open flesh wound or swallowing salt water. It can also be contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood.  

"Make sure your food is cooked thoroughly through. That will kill the bacterium. Make sure you’re not drinking any seawater but of course, no one would do that intentionally. It’s also important to wash your hands very carefully after you’ve handled raw seafood," Swartzberg said.      

Swartzberg says washing your hands with soap and water is sufficient after handling raw seafood. He also emphasized that these cases are rare, especially on the West Coast, but people should still take precautions.