A 77-year-old Texas woman has died from a "flesh-eating" bacterial infection, The Houston Chronicle reports. Nancy Reed contracted the infection after she fell in Harvey’s contaminated floodwater and injured herself.
Another Texas resident underwent surgery for the same infection, and the state's health department is monitoring a third suspected case, according to BuzzFeed News.
These cases of "necrotizing fasciitis" begin in wounds and quickly spread through the body's tissues and organs. Public health officials have warned residents that a number of species can cause the infection and they live in floodwater that's been contaminated by sewage and chemical spills.
During Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was alerted of 33.9 million gallons of sewer overflows.
Reed fell and injured herself in a flooded home during the storm. Her death marks the 36th Harvey-related casualty in Harris County alone.
J.R. Atkins of Missouri City, Texas told ABC13 that he also contracted the infection due to stormwater in his neighbourhood. Atkins underwent three surgeries and was prescribed a course of four kinds of antibiotics.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, a third person in Aransas County is suspected to have contracted the infection after sustaining an injury during the storm.
Hospitals are required to report bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis to the state health department. Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the DSHS, told BuzzFeed News that the department has not received widespread reports of the infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention these infections are relatively rare, but individuals with weak immune systems or chronic illnesses are more vulnerable.
"It will kill about 27 percent of the people that it affects," Scott Lea, a professor of medicine and surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told BuzzFeed News. "The rest of them will wind up with some sort of amputation or surgery."
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the CDC reported approximately 50 cases of skin infections among evacuees.