Eating Sushi Causes Man To Battle Flesh-Eating Bacteria, Eventually Loses Forearm

Elderly diner that had the limb amputated also suffered from type-2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Sushi on a dish with person eating with chopsticks
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Elderly diner that had the limb amputated also suffered from type-2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

A 71-year-old South Korean man endured a medical nightmare that began a few hours after he ate sushi. WSVN reported that the unnamed elderly patient spent two days battling with a painful hand and a fever before he sought medical attention at a nearby hospital. Emergency room doctors initially discovered large, dark purple blisters covering his left forearm and hand. After surgeons got involved, it became clear that the man’s condition was caused by vibrio vulnificus, which he contracted through consuming raw contaminated fish.

Doctors attempted to treat the man’s bout of vibrio vulnificus with antibiotics, but the so-called flesh-eating bug didn’t go away. Instead, the potentially deadly bacteria led to the development of necrotic ulcers. Almost a month after the patient’s ordeal began, it finally ended with the amputation of his left forearm. The surgical team was successful at stopping the spread of the ulcers, and the man was released with a clean bill of health.

Issues like this might seem rare, but Health pointed out that an average of 80,000 people gets sick annually from the vibrio vulnificus bacteria. It’s common for about 100 of these patients to die. It’s important to note that not all 80,000 ill individuals will be exposed to the bacteria through eating contaminated raw sushi. It can also be picked up from seafood that’s undercooked, along with handling sushi or swimming in contaminated water.

In 2017, a 31-year-old man died shortly after getting a new tattoo. According to Health, the man went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and was exposed to vibrio vulnificus. Because he had chronic liver disease, his ability to fight off the bacterial infection was compromised. Even with medical assistance and powerful antibiotics, he died within a few days.

The South Korean man who had to have his forearm amputated had a compromised immune system due to kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. People who suffer from similar conditions run a much higher risk whenever they eat or handle seafood, along with swimming in certain areas. Other high-risk patients include those with HIV, cancer, or thalassemia. Anyone who is taking an immune suppressant also needs to be more cautious around seafood.

Although the most recent case is centered on raw sushi, the same complications can arise from eating raw oysters. If sushi, raw oysters, and other types of raw or lightly cooked seafood are on your typical menu, it’s wise to stick with well-known, highly reputable sources. Those who cook their own seafood should always be careful with their preparation methods. Any open wounds on the hands and arms provide a prime entry point for vibrio vulnificus, aka the flesh-eating bacteria.