Woman dies after contracting flesh-eating infection in Harvey’s toxic floodwaters

HOUSTON (NBC) — A Texas woman has died after she contracted a flesh-eating infection when she fell into Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters, officials say.

Nancy Reed, 77, died on Sept. 15 after falling in a flooded home earlier in the month in Houston’s Kingwood neighborhood, the Harris County medical examiner said this week. She contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a skin infection that kills the body’s soft tissue, through a wound she got from the fall, Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said Thursday.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare disease caused by various types of bacteria, most commonly group A strep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While infections from group A strep are generally mild, in the case of necrotizing fasciitis, the bacteria spread quickly and can become deadly in a short period of time without prompt treatment.

Those with weakened immune systems and other health problems, like diabetes and kidney disease, are more susceptible to getting the infection, the CDC says. The agency says there are anywhere from 700 to 1,100 cases each year in the U.S.

Villarreal was not aware of any other cases of the disease in Houston since the hurricane. However, in nearby Missouri City, Texas, first responder J.R. Atkins was also infected with necrotizing fasciitis earlier this month while he tried to rescue victims from Harvey’s floodwaters, reported NBC affiliate KPRC. He recovered.

Reed’s death is the county’s 36th Harvey-related fatality, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science.

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