Oct. 25 (UPI) — A Texas man died this month after contracting a rare, flesh-eating bacteria while helping to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, officials said Monday.
Josue Zurita, 31, was helping rebuilding efforts in the Galveston area when he went into the hospital on Oct. 10, due to a skin infection on his upper arm, according to the Galveston County Health District. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that kills soft tissue, and he died on Oct. 16.
“It’s most likely this person’s infection occurred when bacteria from Harvey debris or floodwater entered his body through a wound or cut,” said Dr. Philip Keiser, of the Galveston County Local Health Authority. “This is a very rare infection but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking for this person’s family and friends.”
Keiser told CNN that the bacteria is known to spread rapidly.
“What happens is, you get some kind of break in the skin, and in that area — between the skin and the muscle — it’s a fairly open space where the bacteria can grow,” Keiser said. “I have seen these things spread over hours. Even in one case, as I was examining a patient, I could see the red spread in the minutes I was examining him, and that’s the real danger to it.”
Zurita came to Texas from Mexico 12 years ago and was working as a carpenter to support his family, according to his obituary.
“He has a lot of friends here in Galveston that love him. Everybody is very sad. He was very young and always smiling,” said said Brenda Avalos, wife of Josue’s cousin Anastacio, reported KHOU.
Zurita is the third known person to have caught the bacterial infection, which killed 77-year-old Houston resident Nancy Reed and seriously injured former first responder J.R. Atkins in September.