It’s unclear what caused California woman to lose limbs, health officials say

21 September 2023

(KRON) — A San Jose mother who underwent a quadruple amputation earlier this month after eating tilapia fish remains in a hospital, and her illness is now a mystery.

Laura Barajas, 40, was not sickened by Vibrio, public health officials said Wednesday.

Barajas’ close friend, Anna Messina, previously told Nexstar’s KRON that an infection that led to the amputations was likely caused by Vibrio. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Vibrio bacterial infection can be caused by eating raw or undercooked fish, or by exposing an open wound to coastal waters.

About 150-200 cases of the infections are reported each year, the CDC says. Roughly one in five cases are fatal, sometimes within one to two days of becoming ill.

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Barajas purchased tilapia in July from a local market in San Jose and cooked it for dinner.

“Little did she know that this simple act would change her life forever. The following day, Laura realized something was terribly wrong, and she was diagnosed with Vibrio,” Messina wrote in a GoFundMe page for Barajas. “On September 13, 2023, all four of Laura’s limbs had to be removed in order to save her life,” Messina later added.

Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) officials learned of the case through news media reports, and they found the hospitalized patient on Tuesday.

“Preliminary information has now been received regarding this individual, confirming that no laboratory tests are positive for Vibrio,” SCCPHD wrote.Several different diseases including but not limited to Vibrio can cause tragic clinical outcomes like this one. Public Health is actively investigating to confirm if a cause of this illness can be identified.”

The county’s public health department monitors local medical providers and laboratories for any unusual infections and diseases. “Public Health investigates reports of suspected Vibrio each year to prevent potential risks to the public,” SCCPHD wrote.

Messina says she and Barajas’ family are still waiting to learn more about what happened.

A GoFundMe page for Barajas has raised more than $111,000 in donations. On Monday, Messina wrote that “Laura is healing well and looking forward to moving out of the ICU into another room at the hospital.”

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