A 31-year-old Texas man died from Vibrio vulnificus infection soon after getting a tattoo on the calf of his right leg. The infection occurred five days after the man received the tattoo, due to his decision to go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, which took place too soon after getting inked. Common advice is to refrain from swimming for at least two weeks following a tattoo to allow the skin to heal, according to Live Science.
While swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, the man’s tattoo site became infected with the flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus. A few days after swimming, he began to exhibit symptoms. His calf and other parts of his legs became red and painful lesions developed. He also suffered from fever and chills. The man went to the hospital, and shortly thereafter, the lesions on his legs turned purple and blisters developed and filled with fluid.
Doctors treated the man’s Vibrio vulnificus infection with antibiotics, but his health continued to worsen at a rapid rate. He developed septic shock, which is a complication of infection that leads to the patient having a dangerously low blood pressure.
Medical personnel continued to treat the man by cleaning his wounds, and administering antibiotics and medication that would raise his blood pressure. His condition improved and after a few weeks, he started rehabilitation.
However, sometime after he started rehabilitation, his condition began to worsen. Approximately two months later, he passed away due to complications from a damaged liver, kidney failure, and tissue that had been destroyed by the lesions on his skin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people become infected with Vibrio vulnificus by eating seafood that is either raw or undercooked or by exposing a wound to seawater, which is what happened in this case. The Vibrio bacteria was able to enter the man’s body through the site of his tattoo.
Approximately 80,000 people in the United States are infected by Vibrio vulnificus each year, and of those, roughly 100 die from the flesh-eating infection, according to the CDC. People who have a weakened immune system are more prone to infection. Those who have chronic liver disease specifically should avoid eating raw oysters and should refrain from getting in ocean water if they have an open wound anywhere on their body.
In addition, anyone who has gotten a tattoo, regardless of their health, should wait until their skin has time to heal fully prior to swimming in the ocean. Typically, it can take two weeks or more for skin to heal after getting a tattoo.
By Trixie Dillwood