Did a Bay Area woman lose her limbs to flesh-eating bacteria?

Public health officials in Santa Clara County are casting doubt on a shocking story that gained national attention this week in which a San Jose woman claimed she had all four of her limbs amputated after eating grocery store fish. 

The story, first detailed in a lengthy post on a GoFundMe page and later reported by multiple media outlets, said doctors had amputated the woman’s arms and legs after she became infected with the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria after cooking and eating the fish at her San Jose home. The fundraiser had generated more than $111,000 in donations as of Wednesday afternoon and was featured on People Magazine and other national news sites. 

But health officials said they have not found evidence that the bacteria is to blame.

On Wednesday, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said investigators had contacted the hospital and discovered the woman’s laboratory tests did not indicate a Vibrio bacterial infection. 

“Preliminary information has now been received regarding this individual, confirming that no laboratory tests are positive for Vibrio,” said Diana Davila, a health department spokesperson. 

The health department has not identified any risks to the fish-buying public at this time, Davila said. 

The rare bacteria is contracted from raw or undercooked seafood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the most severe cases, the bacterial infection can cause wounds that kill surrounding skin and require amputation, leading to its reputation as a “flesh-eating bacteria,” according to the CDC. 

The health department was “actively investigating” to identify the cause of the woman’s illness, Davila said. Vibrio is not the only infection that can “cause tragic clinical outcomes like this one,” she added, noting that “several different diseases” could be to blame. 

The Chronicle’s attempts to contact the woman and the fundraiser organizer were unsuccessful. 


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