He Fixed Flood-Soaked Homes Post-Harvey. Then, an Infection

Texas carpenter Josue Zurita died of necrotizing fasciitis 6 days after going to the hospital
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2017 10:34 AM CDT
Flesh-Eating Bacteria in Harvey Floodwaters Kills Carpenter
A car is submerged in floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

A 31-year-old Texas man has died from flesh-eating bacteria, the third reported victim to be infected with the rare bug linked to Hurricane Harvey. Josue Zurita, a carpenter helping repair flooded homes, died on Oct. 16, six days after he went to the hospital with a serious infection to his upper left arm, KHOU reports. Necrotizing fasciitis had already claimed the life of a 77-year-old Houston-area woman; a man who'd kayaked through floodwaters to check on neighbors and contracted the bacteria survived, per CNN. Dr. Philip Keiser, the local health authority for Galveston County, which announced Zurita's death on Monday, says the risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis is "well within what we would expect" given the amount of construction and resulting injuries after the storm. "You get some kind of break in the skin, and ... it's a fairly open space where the bacteria can grow," he notes.

The infection can "spread over hours," Keiser adds. Several types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, which kills the body's soft tissue. The risk of disease following a flood is usually short-lived, per the Washington Post. But to prevent infection, it's important to treat even minor wounds by cleaning them thoroughly, then covering them with clean, dry bandages. Tetanus shots can prevent infection. Zurita was remembered in an obituary as a "loving father and hardworking carpenter" who moved to the US from Mexico to support his wife and daughter back home. "He's a very caring person," a relative tells KHOU. "He was very young and always smiling." (Sewage in floodwaters was a prime culprit for spreading infection.)

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