Woman Warns of Potential Dangers of Eating Raw Oysters After Wife Died of Deadly Bacteria

Vicki Bergquist is remembering her wife, Jeanette LeBlanc, by getting the message out on the potential health risks of eating raw oysters.

It was a hot and humid day in late September 2017. Vicki Bergquist and her wife, Jeanette LeBlanc, were visiting friends and family in Louisiana when they tucked into a bag of raw oysters

Twenty-four hours later, Bergquist found herself in the middle of a "nightmare," she told Inside Edition. Her wife was seriously ill and could hardly get air into her lungs.

"You could see that she was really struggling to breathe," Bergquist said, adding that LeBlanc's legs had also broken out in a terrible rash.

Bergquist, a nurse, immediately rushed her wife to the hospital. "She was scared," she recalled. "... Her temperature was going up. Her legs were really inflamed and hot."

As it turned out, doctors said LeBlanc had contracted vibrio, a potentially deadly form of flesh-eating bacteria typically that can be caused by eating undercooked seafood like oysters.

"I never thought that an oyster could kill you," said Bergquist.

While millions of pounds of oysters are harvested and eaten safely in the United States annually, for some people eating oysters can pose serious health risks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people battling cancer, diabetes or liver disease are especially at risk of contracting the bacteria and should avoid eating raw oysters. Also at risk? People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, like LeBlanc. It was a danger that Bergquist said LeBlanc was unaware of.

Over the next two days, LeBlanc's condition deteriorated. 

"I was very terrified because they said they didn't expect her to last initially more than 24 to 48 hours," said Bergquist. "They had done everything that they could to save her life."

She added: "Her legs were being eaten up and her kidneys were being eaten up. She did fight all the way to the bitter end of her life."

Tragically, LeBlanc passed away 20 days after eating the raw oysters 

"The last thing we said was 'I love you,'" Bergquist said.

Now, Bergquist is remembering her wife by getting the message out on the potential dangers of eating raw oysters. 

"An oyster can kill you," she said. 

Vibrio sickens an estimated 800,000 people and leads to 100 deaths each year in the U.S., according to the CDC.

To avoid getting vibrio from oysters, watch for open or cracked shells, meaning the oyster most likely died and may not be safe to eat. Healthy oysters will respond to a tap on their shell or a dousing of cold water by clamping shut. If you buy live oysters, make sure to get them to a fridge within 90 minutes of purchase.