Vibrio Infection in Galveston

August 16, 2004


I am not an expert on the Vibrio.  I just suspect it is related to contaminated waters, and Galveston seems to have its share, even Vibrio cholorae in the past.  The low oxygen offshore is from phytoplankton growth stimulated by an over excess of nutrients, especially nitrate, mostly from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers.  Some local Galveston out flow may have contributed, but it is rare for anything but the Miss/Atch to make a difference in the offshore ecosystem.  I am copying this email to Dr. Marilyn Kilgen at Nicholls State University, who is an expert on Vibrio.  I hope that she can better inform you.

I am very glad to hear that you are recovering and still have the use of your leg.  My sympathies to the others.

Nancy Rabalais

 At 02:04 PM 8/16/2004, you wrote:

Dr. Rabalais,

I found your comments in the Reuters article (on MSNBC at concerning "Dead Zones" most

I have just been released from a 27-day stay in the hospital here in the
Houston area with a severe Vibrio vulnificus infection. While I was able to
eventually go home, the infected leg is far from healed. I was told I was
about six hours away from losing my leg – as the undiagnosed infection crept
up past my knee…not responding to common – but very strong – traditional
antibiotics in the emergency room. As of now, I still have huge, deep
"flesh-eating-bacteria-like" wounds on much of my left calf and lower leg.

The article you contributed to talks about things like an increase in shark
bites this year – something we Texas folks are very aware of. It really did
not mention the relationship between these dead zones and things like

Is it possible that there is a connection – between oxygen levels and things
like Vibrio?

For example, I was infected by simply swimming in the Galveston Bay area on
July 5, 2004 (yes, I did have some breaks in my skin – what I know now as an
obvious infection point). However, from various TV news reports, there were
three other people infected the same day (one lost his leg). Statistically,
many seem to feel that this is way outside the normal mathematical bounds of
chance infections by Vibrio.

Any thoughts on this? Is there another element to the dead zones to consider
beyond the sharks?

From a newspaper article in the Houston Chronicle (July 29, 2004, page D11 –
at, Vibrio
vulnificus was described as "by far the worst" native infection you can get
in Texas.

Apparently the State of Texas does not test the water for Vibrio, despite it
being far worse than many of the naturally occurring organisms for which
they do test. The last article referenced below announces that "so far this
year, there have been 31 illnesses caused by Vibrio, including the seven
deaths," including a very recent one.

Any comments or thoughts on this would be most welcomed.


Richard Puckett
Spring, Texas

Other Houston Chronicle articles – including a very recent death: