A Texas woman has been confirmed to have died from flesh-eating bacteria after she fell into floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey.
Nancy Reed, 77, died on Sept. 15, reports the Houston Chronicle. The Houston resident reportedly died from necrotizing fasciitis related to waters from the flood.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a potentially deadly infection that kills the body's soft tissue and can quickly spread, according to the CDC. The infection, which can be caused by a number of different bacteria, does not generally spread between people, but once a person is infected, the bacteria will quickly spread in the body, and can destroy tissues leading to limb amputation or death.
"It's tragic," said Houston emergency medical services director Dr. David Persse. "This is one of the things we'd been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur. My heart goes out to the family."
Reed fell and injured her arm while she was at her son's home. When the wound became infected, she was taken to a hospital. She was then transferred to another hospital, but later died.
"Nancy was a kind, caring member of the Kingwood community and gave of her time and many talents graciously," said the former elementary school teacher's obituary.
Reed isn't the first victim of flesh-eating infection from Harvey's floodwaters. Former firefighter and medic J.R. Atkins was infected while assisting neighbors in Missouri City, Texas. Atkins managed to survive the infection.
The CDC recommends practicing proper care for wounds to avoid necrotizing fasciitis. It advises against swimming or spending time in hot tubs if you have an open wound, and suggests making sure that any wounds are kept clean and covered with bandages until they heal.
Symptoms can start soon after an injury, but patients may not realize that their symptoms are from necrotizing fasciitis. The skin may have swollen red and purple areas that spread quickly, and the pain may be more severe than the wound's appearance would suggest. Later symptoms can involve fever, chills, vomiting and fatigue.
It's important to seek treatment quickly so the person suffering from the infection can get a strong dose of antibiotics through IV. Doctors also often perform surgery to remove dead tissue infected by the bacteria.
Since 2010, an estimated 700 to 1100 cases have occurred in the U.S., though the CDC reports that this number may be an underestimate.
Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said that while Texas residents repair the damage done by Hurricane Harvey, they should take care to treat any injuries, according to NBC News.
"A lot of people are working on their homes, and so it is important to clean up your home, but do it at a pace where you don't injure yourself," said Villarreal. "It's really important if anybody has a wound just to keep it clean and covered up with dressing and bandages, and make sure that those bandages and dressing are clean. That way, it doesn't become infected."