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Man touched raw shrimp after Hurricane Florence. It left him fighting for his life

Aaron Moody, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Weather News

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A North Carolina couple didn't have to eat the fresh-caught shrimp they bought a few weeks after Hurricane Florence to find out something was wrong with them.

After the husband touched the shrimp, he became infected by a bacteria that left him fighting for his life.

Longtime and now-retired Wake County educators Eddie and Patti Clinton purchased 20 pounds of shrimp from a friend of a friend who harvested them near the New River on Oct. 5, Patti Clinton told The News & Observer in an interview.

"All (Eddie) did was open the bags up, take them out and put them in smaller bags and put them in the freezer," Clinton said.

Within about 24 hours, Eddie Clinton began experiencing soreness, shaking, loss of appetite and slurred speech.

By the early hours of Oct. 8, he was on life support at WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, in critical condition and an induced coma, his wife said.

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On Oct. 9, doctors determined Eddie had Vibrio vulnificus bacteria in his bloodstream.

People most commonly become infected with vibriosis "by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the CDC says skin infections are possible when brackish or salt water gets in an open wound.

While some versions of Vibrio can last a few days and have no permanent effects, the CDC says about one out of every four Vibrio vulnificus infections is deadly, and that it can kill a person within a day or two.

Doctors suspected Eddie may have wiped his mouth with his hand or that he had a small cut on his hand when handling the shrimp, but they never found an open wound, his wife said.

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