Carpenter Who Helped Rebuild Houses After Hurricane Harvey Dies From Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Playing Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills Man Rebuilding Homes Destroyed in Hurricane

A Texas carpenter who'd been working on Hurricane Harvey cleanup contracted flesh-eating bacteria and has since died, his family said this week.

The family of Josue Zurita said he succumbed to necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and fast-moving infection that kills soft tissue, earlier this month.

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The 31-year-old Galveston resident went to the hospital on October 10 with a seriously infected wound on his upper left arm.

Without naming Zurita, Galveston County health officials confirmed the case in a statement released Monday.

"It’s most likely this person’s infection occurred when bacteria from Harvey debris or floodwater entered his body through a wound or cut," said Dr. Philip Keiser of the Galveston County Local Health Authority. "This is a very rare infection but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking for this person’s family and friends."

Zurita had recently worked on repairing several homes damaged by Harvey flooding.

People with strong immune systems who practice good hygiene and proper wound care have a lower risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most people who get the infection have other health problems that may lower their body’s ability to fight infection. Some of these conditions include diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and other chronic health conditions that weaken the immune system.

Proper wound care is vital to preventing infections. People with wounds or cuts should:

  • Keep open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed.
  • Don’t delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds (like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin).
  • Avoid contact with natural bodies of water (lakes, rivers, oceans) if you have an open wound or skin infection.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if washing is not possible.
  • Seek medical attention for redness, swelling or fever.

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Officials said this is the only known case of necrotizing fasciitis in Galveston County related to Hurricane Harvey.

A funeral was held for Zurita on Sunday.