Health

Freshly-Tattooed Man Dies After Swimming In The Ocean (Photos)

| by Sarah Zimmerman

A man died after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico because his fresh tattoo wound became infected with sepsis.

Those with fresh tattoos are advised to avoid swimming in pools or oceans for at least two weeks as the tattooed area is still considered to be an open wound. An unidentified 31-year-old from Mexico ignored that advice after getting a religious tattoo on his calf, according to the Daily Mail. Only five days after getting the ink, he ventured off the Gulf of Mexico for a swim.

A day later, the man developed a fever, chills and a red rash near his tattoo. Two days after he first fell ill, his condition worsened and he was admitted to a local hospital.

By then, it was too late. Doctors suggested that he was infected with the flesh-eating vibrio vulnificus bug, a virulent bacteria that can lead to severe infection. The bug weakens the immune system, and can affect the liver and bloodstream. Without proper treatment, the virus can prove fatal.

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The man was especially susceptible to vibro vulnificus because of his weakened liver, which was reportedly caused by his drinking habits. Damaged livers have less neutrophils, which are types of white blood cells that are essential for fighting off viruses like vibrio vulnificus.

Because the man's body couldn't fight off the bug on its own, he was given antibiotics and was placed on life support as his organs began to fail.

He soon developed sepsis which, according to the Mayo Clinic, "is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection [and] occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body." 

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Sepsis has the potential to progress to septic shock, which causes blood pressure to dramatically drop, often resulting in death.

While on life support, the man developed septic shock but was able to fight through it, according to the Mail. After weeks in the hospital, his symptoms began to clear up and doctors were optimistic that he could be released.

However, he eventually succumbed to another bout of septic shock, which caused his kidneys to fail. It's unusual for people to develop vibrio vulnificus from ocean water. It's most commonly transmitted through the ingestion of raw oysters. But, scientists suggest that more people are developing the bug from contaminated sea water. A general increase in ocean temperature and a decrease in salinity levels over the years has led to an increase in the pathogen. 

Tattoo artists warn that those who are freshly inked wait at least two weeks before entering a pool or any other body of water, as the tattooed area needs time to fully heal. Newly tattooed skin can be compared to open sores and is extremely vulnerable to infection.

Sources: Daily Mail, Mayo Clinic / Photo credit: Chris Dodds/FlickrBMJ Case Reports via Daily Mail

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