The Dangers of Flesh-Eating Bacteria for Offshore Workers
Offshore work is one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Most offshore workers know the risks of rig explosions or being injured by heavy machinery, but they are probably unaware of the threats posed by flesh-eating bacteria. Contracting a flesh-eating bacterium is rare. However, the outcome can be severe. If not treated quickly, infection could result in an amputation or death.
What Is Flesh-Eating Bacteria?
Necrotizing fasciitis – also known as a flesh-eating infection - is a condition caused by a species of bacteria known as Vibrio. Vibrio bacteria live in warm seawater like the Gulf of Mexico. There are many different kinds of Vibrio bacteria, but the one that is most commonly flesh-eating is known as Vibrio vulnificus. Humans are usually infected by the bacteria through an open cut or wound, though infection can also occur by eating raw fish or raw oysters.
How Common Is Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infection?
Infection from flesh-eating bacteria is exceedingly rare. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are roughly 95 incidents of Vibrio vulnificus infections each year. However, those infections account for about 35 deaths.
Most of the infections occur in the Gulf of Mexico, where dozens were reported last year. Florida reported 13 cases, Mississippi reported 10 cases, and four were reported in Texas.
Offshore Workers at Risk of Infection
Any offshore worker who is in contact with seawater is at risk of contracting flesh-eating bacteria.
However, those most at risk include:
- Offshore divers
- Underwater welders
Employers Have Duty to Provide Prompt Medical Care
Offshore workers are provided specific legal protections under the Jones Act. One of those protections includes a duty on the part of a seaman’s employer to provide timely and adequate medical treatment in the event of injury or illness. If an employer fails to provide prompt medical treatment, the injured seaman may be able to file a negligence claim against the employer.
In the case of a flesh-eating bacteria infection, every minute matters. If adequate medical treatment is not available on the vessel, it is the employer’s responsibility to transport the infected seaman to nearby medical facility for treatment as quickly as possible.
If you contracted flesh-eating bacteria while working offshore and did not receive immediate medical care, you may have a negligence claim against your employer. Contact the offshore injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today to find out if you are eligible for compensation.